Charting women’s progress since 1959
CSC women’s officer Beverley McGowan summarises the presentation given to the CSC Women’s Day Conference in September 2003 by the Cuban delegates form the Cuba Women’s Federation
Women have played a defining part in the changes that have taken place in the economic, political and social life of Cuba since the revolution of 1959.
They have been the main agents in the process of transforming the traditional roles assigned and assumed by the sexes. They have been working in the process of building relationships based on equality, respect of the differences and full realisation of everyone’s potential.
Women have been active in the theoretical and political struggle to alter the fundamental problem of the status of women in Cuban society and this has been the starting point to begin the struggle for full equal rights and opportunities.
Equality for women has therefore been included as one of the strategic objectives in the development of human and social justice of the Cuban Revolution.
Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)
The FMC is an NGO which was established by women in 1960 with more than 3 million members, which constitutes 85.2% of all women over age 14. It has been recognised by the Cuban government as the national mechanism for the advancement of women in Cuba.
This was due to the work the FMC has done at the grass roots level, the authority it has gained by its work with the government on women’s issues and the role it has performed in introducing the gender approach in the institutional agenda and in public policies.
The structure of the FMC comprises a nationwide grass roots network of 73,710 local organisations with a huge number of women members acting as volunteers. This structure allows full participation and genuine representation for all women.
These local delegations are linked upwards to the national executive throughout municipal and provincial organisations.
There is also a Women’s Training Centre and a Women’s Publishing House at national level.
Objectives of the FMC
· To defend the Cuban Revolution which has made and makes their achievements possible
· To fight for the full incorporation, participation and promotion of women in the economic, political, social and cultural life in Cuba based on equal rights and opportunities
· To strengthen the ideological and political work and form ethical and moral values in children, the family, in schools and society
· To intensify the development of non-sexist education at all levels of society
· To spread the gender perspective in all spheres of Cuban society as a means for analysis and planning economic and social projects
· To carry out a strategy for the promotion of women to management levels, including decision making positions
· To direct the National Commission for preventing violence to women
· To encourage the participation of women in economic programmes
· To carry out social research with the aim of diagnosing and finding solutions for the problems of women, in liaison with the appropriate institutions
· To establish and maintain links with women’s organisations and institutions all over the world
· To participate actively in the international organisations and bodies devoted to women’s issues
Main activities of the FMC
The FMC develops wide ranging community work programmes aimed at promoting education, health, non-sexist education of boys and girls, as well as the awareness of women’s rights, their place in society and within the family. The FMC has 78,142 social workers and 77,317 health promoters who work voluntarily in the communities.
It carries out a permanent educational activity through 176 Orientation Houses for Women and Families that have more than 10,700 female and male professional specialists.
The FMC promotes and is involved in joint plans with the Ministries of Labour and Social Security, Education, Agriculture, Sugar Production, Public Health, Science, Technology and Environment, the Cuban Institute of Radio and TV, the CTC (Cuban TUC).
Advances for Cuban women
The Cuban Socialist government recognised that women were subjected to different forms of oppression based on race, sex and class. The programme for the advancement of women in Cuba assumed this conception and appropriate programmes, specific measures and actions to transform the status of women are also aimed at finding solutions to gender inequalities.
From the FMC’s experience, to achieve equality of rights and opportunities between men and women, it is necessary to develop “a real culture of equality” together with the political will, the creation of the appropriate material infrastructure, the social development and the participation of women.
That is why the Cuban state put into practice its National Development Strategy since 1959.
“This programme calls for the detailed and harmonious execution of economic and social programmes aimed at the creation and development of economic, political, ideological, legal, educational, cultural and social bases to guarantee equality of rights, opportunities and possibilities for women and men, transforming the conditions of discrimination and subordination under which Cuban women had lived for centuries, and promoting the elimination of traditional stereotypes and a new concept of women’s role in society and in the family”.
In the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, endorsed in 1976 and modified in 1962, chapter V1 dedicated to Equality states “The discrimination based on race, skin colour, sex, national origin, religious beliefs and any other harmful to human dignity is proscribed and sentenced by law”. Also Article 34 states “Women and men enjoy the same rights in the economic, political, cultural, social and family terms. The State makes an effort for creating all conditions that foster the principle of equality”.
In addition to the Constitution, several laws and legislation guarantee the main human rights for both sexes. Specifically for women these include:
Maternity Leave (1974)
The Family Code (1975)
Law for the Protection and Hygiene in the Workplace (1977)
Law on Social Security (1979)
Code on Childhood and Youth (1984)
Labour Code (1985)
National Action Plan for the Implementation of the 1V UN Conference on Women (1977)
Law #62 on the Penal Code (1987) - Article 295 recognises discrimination based on any reason and the violation of the right of equality as a crime.
Same salary for the same job and the same qualification
The revolutionary changes which have occurred in Cuba in the last 44 years have transformed it into a society that shows higher indicators for the quality of life than in other Latin American countries and comparable with many other developed countries.
All these advancements have been achieved despite the hostility and the economic, commercial and financial blockade by the US. Cuban women denounce the US blockade against Cuba, the US policy of aggression and the media war intensified in the last few years, as the hardest violation of their human rights.
WOMEN IN EDUCATION
49.5% of all graduated at the higher level and 62% of university students
WOMEN IN EMPLOYMENT
WOMEN IN POWER
35% in the Parliament
16.1% in the State Council
22.7% Vice- Ministers
47% Judges in the Supreme Court
Life expectancy 78 years
Maternal mortality 33.9% per 100,000 live births
Infant mortality 6.5% per 1000 live births (the lowest in Latin America)
Access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health is universal and free.
Abortion free on demand
Specific mental heath programmes.
Childcare provided at low cost from 3 months to school age.
Optional maternity leave of one year on full pay.