“Most feminist country in Latin America”

News from Cuba | Friday, 25 May 2012

In an article in the New York Times in May, columnist Luisita Lopez Torregrosa argued that “Cuba may be the the most feminist country in Latin America”. 

According to the United Nations Survey on Women in Politics Cuba ranks No. 3 in the world when it comes to the political participation of women in Parliament, and is the only nation in Latin America to rank in the top 20 in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2011.

“In sheer numbers and percentages, Cuban women’s advance is notable. Cuba has a high number of female professional and technical workers (60 percent of the total work force in those areas) and in Parliament (43 percent), as well as high levels of primary, secondary and tertiary education enrollment, according to the Gender Gap report.” writes Torregrosa.

“Cuban women tell us that they feel lucky to have come of age since 1959,” says Sarah Stephens, the director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, who is also quoted in the article.

“Before 1959, women comprised only 5 percent of university graduates and only 12 percent of the work force, often holding menial jobs.” states Stephens, whose organisation is currently working on a report on the status of women in Cuba. Women make up 41 percent of the Communist Party, half of the island’s work force, the majority of students in high schools and universities, 60 percent of university faculties and the majority of provosts and department heads (but not presidents). And women hold top portfolios in ministries and in key provincial positions.

“Fidel Castro called for women’s rights as a ‘revolution within a revolution’ and this commitment became tangible through changes in legislation and policy,” Ms. Stephens says. But, that said, “women within the system argue strongly for what remains to be done, and they criticize the gaps between rhetoric and practice.” 

“Women speak to us about a ‘gender paradox’ in Cuba - a nation legally committed to equality but harnessed to a historic structure of patriarchy.”

A futher report in May by development NGO Save the Children ranked Cuba once again as the best country in Latin America for mothers. The charity’s annual Mothers Index Rating analysed the 43 "most developed," 81 "less developed," and 42 "least developed" countries according to ten factors related to education, health, economic status, and political development, as well as the basic welfare of children. Cuba ranks highest in the category of "less developed" nations, and is followed in Latin America by Argentina, in third place. The US was ranked 25th in the category for developed nations, while Norway won the highest ranking. 

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