Leadership and fame come with their very own bag-loads of public applause and criticism, and Ana Paula dos Santos, First Lady of Angola, has lived with her share of both. She is applauded on one end for her dedication to tackling the burning problems of the Angolan nation with special emphasis on women, children and a population displaced by war and the ensuing landmine legacy. On the other hand, she is criticised on several issues ranging from her affluent lifestyle, amidst the growing poverty in Angola, to her business dealings specifically in diamonds. Regardless of both applause and criticism, Ana Paula dos Santos is moving ahead as a wife, mother, advocate and leader.
Ana Paula dos Santos was born in October 17th, 1963 in Luanda, Angola, and worked as a fashion model for a few years. To satisfy her desire to see and travel the world, she worked as a flight hostess for ten years with the Angolan presidential airplane where she met her husband and president of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. They got married in May 1991 and are parents of three children, Eduane Danilo dos Santos (September 29th, 1991), Joseana dos Santos (April 5th, 1995) and Eduardo Breno dos Santos (October 2nd, 1998). A lawyer by profession, Mrs. dos Santos earned her first degree as a teacher from the National Institute of Education in Luanda in 1994, and later received a law degree from the Agostinho Neto University Faculty of Law.
Ana dos Santos is devoted to the plethora of social and economic issues affecting the Angola nation. However, her primary focus through her charitable organization, Lwini Fund for Social Solidarity, is to create social and fundraising activities aimed at supporting civilian land mine victims particularly children and women. Angola is among the worst land-mine affected countries in the world, a result of the civil war that began after the countries independence in November 1975 and continued with interludes until 2002. Victims of land mines are everywhere in Angola, and Mrs dos Santos hopes they will be able to maintain a sustainable living through the Lwini Fund. In the past more than a decade, the fund has provided social, medical and policy support for victims, and she as acted as a voice for Angola’s issues nationally and internationally.
The growth of women is imperative to the role many first ladies choose to confront, and the Angolan first lady is focused on creating a platform for women in Angola to rise up and live sustainably. She has been criticized for taking active role in the administrative matters of Angola alongside her husband, nevertheless she is constantly advocating for the best interest of the poorest. As the patron for the Committe to Suport Rural Women (COMUR), an organization supporting rural women with micro -credit funds, she represented Angola at the Micro-credit Summit for Heads of States and Government in Washington D.C. in 1997. Her contribution support projects and activities that respond to national needs of rural women and their development, maternal and child health, the situation of children, particularly the most vulnerable (orphans and abandoned), education, youth, defense and environmental protection.
She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being elected as one of the first co-chairs of African Synergy, a non-profit founded by Chantal Biya, Cameroon’s First Lady. She was also elected member of the International Steering Committee, representing the sub-Saharan Africa, and recognized by the International Olympic Committee for her dedication to the promotion of sport for the disabled.
A believer in beauty and brains; her mission also includes enhancing the beauty, moral and intellectual qualities of Angolan women. She is a champion for the Miss Angola pageant serving as the President of the Miss Angola Committee. Under her leadership, ten competitions have been held nationwide and Angolan candidates have participated in nine international pageant. Recently, an Angolan, Ms. Leila Lopes, won the Miss Universe 2011 pageant. Twenty years after marrying Jose Eduordo dos Santos and becoming First Lady of Angola, Ana Paula dos Santos is making dreams come through for many in the nation of Angola.
Regardless of her contributions, it is reported that many Angolans are appalled at her lifestyle which is said to be in sharp contrasts to the poverty and suffering caused by the war and experienced by Angolan citizens. She was further criticized in 1997, when she announced that her five-year-old son would enroll at the Portuguese school in Luanda because of the ‘bad quality’ of state education. A “bad quality’ for which many hold her husband responsible. Whether the accusations leveled against her are true or unfounded, she has worked, alongside her husband and regardless of her critics, for the women, children and disabled in Angola.
By AdeOla Fadumiye, January 9, 2012.