Honorary President of the Institute for Child Support (Instituto de Apoio à Criança)
Daughter of Manuel Neto Portugal and Laura Duarte, Manuela Ramalho Eanes holds a law degree from the Faculty of Law of the University of Lisbon. She is one of the founders of and honorary president of the Child Support Institute (after being President, from its inception to 2017).
She has always had a great affection for children. Even when she was very young, and when on vacation, when other friends had their own programs, she was very fond of being occupied with the younger children of older friends, which for them was a great help and for Manuela Eanes a very special pleasure.
As a university student, she was Diocesan President and National Vice-President of the female Catholic University Youth (Juventude Universitária Católica), responsible for various social and cultural initiatives at university level. From this time she keeps the best memories – a time of friendship, deepening of the great questions, living the great ideals and a testimony that she tries to be authentic. This was a very enriching time in her life, especially at cultural level. She did not miss a good concert, she was a member of a cine-club, and tried not to miss good theater performances.
In 1970 Manuela married António Ramalho Eanes, the first democratically elected President after the revolution of 25th April. They have two children: Manuel and Miguel.
Since 1976 she accompanied her husband. She travelled to various countries to discuss several important issues (drugs, child sexual abuse, among others). Despite being considered by the Washington Post in 1985 as “the true model of a first lady”, Manuela Ramalho Eanes insists that she never liked the designation “First Lady”. Rather, she always sought to share the problems of other women, to be useful to them, with her work, her commitment, and her availability. She always tried to fulfill her tasks with dignity and simplicity, and he feels that everything he did was worth, fundamentally, in an ethical and service dimension.
She began her professional life collaborating in different projects in the Ministry of Health and Assistance. Later, she was an employee of the Institute of Social Work, where she worked in various services, namely in projects related to kindergartens, children and the elderly, encouraging various formative, cultural and recreational activities, such as student holiday camps, which the Institute organized in various parts of the country. She also collaborated in the planning of actions for the elderly and in the study of several issues related to Social Gerontology.
She was nominated in 1972 to the Ministry of Education, with the mission of organizing the Ministry’s Social Work. There she collaborated in the dynamization of several initiatives for the benefit of the Ministry’s employees, namely the start-up of kindergartens, the granting of birth, marriage, disability and old age benefits, opening of canteens and granting loans in cases of emergency. Worthy of notice is also the creation of the invalidity and old age allowance that the Social Work started to grant to former school administrators, until then without any social support.
She was Deputy Director of the Social Work service at the time her husband was elected President. During those years, she began to develop several activities, also of social and cultural nature. After the end of her husband’s second term as President of the Republic, she continued her work as President of the Institute for Child Support (Instituto de Apoio à Criança), an institution she helped create in 1983.
Instituto de Apoio à Criança (IAC) is a non-governmental organization, which brings together professionals from different areas – doctors, teachers, psychologists, social workers, etc. – whose fundamental objective is the defense of the rights of children, all rights, both in the area of health and social security and those related to their leisure time.
For Manuela Ramalho Eanes and the entire IAC team, it is very gratifying to have dreamed up and completed this project even before the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1989. Although the Institute’s high priority is the problem of at-risk, abused and sexually abused children, they also seek to energize other projects in areas not covered by the State or other organizations. This was the case, for example, of the creation in 1988 of the SOS-Criança Service (inbound help phone line), which did not exist in Portugal, or of the Children Street Project in 1989, at the time considered to be innovative at European level, above all by its methodology: personal and affective towards children at risk, delivered not only by technicians but also by young street entertainers – who went to meet them and accompanied them in discovering a new way of life (this project was later approved by the European Community under the 3rd Program to Combat Poverty). On 25th May 2004 the 1410 Green Line for Support to the Missing and Sexually Abused Child was created, within the framework of the work developed with the respective European Federation, in which IAC is the only Portuguese institution represented.
During the period when her husband was President, her work included the participation in meetings, correspondence, telephone calls and people to receive. Many were the people who wrote to her on a wide range of subjects, but above all on social issues (serious economic gaps, requests for help, issues relating to children, the elderly, and prisoners). Depending on each case, there was adequate referral to the respective departments, seeking to find the best solution, both socially and humanly. All this despite the fact that there was no formal structure to support the President’s wife, not even a budget for this type of expenditure.
She also participated in several working groups:
- A coordinating group of the support work for people who had returned from the former Portuguese colonies met periodically in the Presidency of the Republic, and, in 1976, it included the High Commissioner, the various ministries and other entities, officials and individuals, related to the problem.
- The Secretariat of Social Action (1979-1981), a body which, for the first time in Portugal, brought together private bodies and official institutions, and which brought together and coordinated actions of a social nature in the areas of support for the Family, the Child and the Elderly, in the promotion of youth leisure activities, rehabilitation, social recovery and reintegration, and assistance in emergency situations.
- She participated in the definition of the Movement for the Humanization of Hospitals, at a national level.
- She participated in the project for a Foundation for Support to the Emigrant, a project that did not come to fruition because, in the meantime, the Assembly of the Republic created an organism with the same functions.
- With a group of professionals from different areas (doctors, teachers, writers, psychologists, etc.), all related to children, she realized the dream of creating the Institute for Child Support in 1983, a non-governmental organization for the integral development of the child, in the defense and promotion of their rights.
- She also seeked to support and stimulate different cultural initiatives. She periodically promoted cultural meetings with ambassadors, which informally helped create better relations of friendship between countries.
- She also began to organize, with the ladies of the Diplomatic Corps and the Association of Women of the Portuguese Diplomats, then created, the Christmas Bazaars, whose product was offered to works of a social nature.
- Another area that has always been much cherished by her is handicrafts, as a form of culture of great authenticity, with very deep roots in Portuguese tradition, in which the country has great artists.
- In 1979, International Year of the Child, a group of writers conveyed their concerns about the lack of quality works aimed at children. From here a working group was created, under the patronage of Manuela Ramalho Eanes, which resulted in the organization of the First Meeting of Children’s Literature at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which has continued regularly, and which has been associated with several national and foreign countries.
- In 1980, he helped adapt the Belém Palace’s dining room, which was not used, for the constitution of a Presidency Museum, which gathered all the gifts offered by heads of state to her husband.
- Among many other international meetings, in April 1985, she participated in the Conference of First Ladies, which Nancy Reagan held in Washington to discuss the drug problem.
National awards received: Grand Cross of the Order of the Infante D. Henrique, attributed by the President of the Republic, on International Women’s Day in 1997 “for the commitment and relevance of Mrs. Eanes’s study and multidisciplinary support to children’s rights and development in Portugal”.
Foreign awards received:
- Order “Cross Pro Ecclesi Pontifici”, granted by the Holy See
- Band of the Lady of the Order “Isabel Católica”, granted by Spain
- Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, granted by Germany
- Gold Medal of the “Da Rosa” Order awarded by Bulgaria
- Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Saint Olav, granted by Norway
- Grand Cross of the “National Cruzeiro do Sul” Order, granted by Brazil
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown, granted by Belgium
- Grand Cross of the Order of Devotion, granted by the People’s Republic of Congo
- Grand Cross of the Order “Adolphe de Nassau”, granted by Luxembourg
- First Class of the Order “El Kamal”, granted by Egypt.