One of the more positive political themes that the exiled students brought back from their studies was a special emphasis on the need for the emancipation of women. A Women’s Committee operated within POMOA. As late as 1977, official state documents were stressing the double oppression of women, as workers and women. This was in contrast to the more orthodox theory of the Eastern European countries that became official policy in 1978. In the countryside, moreover, the establishment of peasant associations went together with the setting up of local women’s associations. Nearly all women had been integrated into these structures by 1980, and women appear to have participated quite widely in the peasant associations. In the towns, the establishment of women’s organizations appears to have encountered opposition from the already existing women’s organizations associated with the EPRP and MEISON. In the countryside the obstacles would have arisen from the traditional structures and suspicions of village life. These different problems may explain why it was only in July 1980 that a national structure, Revolutionary Ethiopia’s Women’s Association, was established.
For an evaluation on the record of the Communist parties on women, see Maxine Molyneux, “Socialist Societies Old and New: Progress Towards Women’s Emancipation?” Feminist Review 8 (Summer 1981).