56 years of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)
Granma International | Thursday, 25 August 2016 | Click here for original article
"Among our fundamental purposes is the defense of the Revolution; because if we compare what we were and what we are, there is no alternative."
Teresa Amarelle Boué has been secretary general of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) since October, 2012.
She is also one of the four female members of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Political Bureau.
Thus, in her own words, each of her speeches represents the voices of more than four million Cuban women. Their interests, their concerns.
In the context of the 56th anniversary of the organisation she represents, Granma International took the time to ask her some questions.
CUBAN WOMEN TODAY AND THE FMC...
We have an ongoing exchange with women in the (local) delegations, in the blocks, in order to seek the best ways to address each of their concerns.
Undoubtedly, the aging population is a challenge, as the care of this aging population, which represents 19.4% of society, still falls to women.
But this falls to women who also have social responsibilities, such that in some cases they find themselves faced with the dilemma of whether to continue working or stay at home to care for these people.
Luckily, in Cuba there is a family care network (nursing homes, for example) and other policies that the government has adopted to mitigate these new socio-demographic realities.
And I must say that our delegations contribute in this sense, because where there is an older person on their own, there are social workers who buy their medicines or cooperate in the cleaning of their home.
One problem is that the demand for pre-school day care centres is much higher than supply. This is the case as women have been largely incorporated into employment, both in the state and non-state sectors... But women workers in both sectors have the right to places at pre-school day care centres.
Hence, we are now working together with the government and the Implementation Commission (of the country’s Economic and Social Policy Guidelines) in the search for alternatives given this demand.
A portion is being covered through private carers. But it's not enough.
Prices often exceed what families can afford.
These are issues to which we are paying close attention. There are several bodies participating in the implementation of public policies that, to some extent, supplement these needs...
The updating of the economic model poses challenges which are being assumed by women. The movement of state employees to the non-state sector implies challenges. And the FMC, in its Neighbourhood Women and Family Guidance centres, is working on training programs that contribute to education in these new forms of management.
In addition, we undertake audits and speak with non-state workers to find out how they are doing, the results they are obtaining…
The Cuban Labour Code protects women in this sector. And it is established that where there exists an employer and an employee, there must be a labour contract between them; and that the contributions these women make to social security, provide them with the right to enjoy maternity leave.
Based on the proposals that have resulted from these discussions, we are reviewing how to better protect this right, and all those relating to social security benefits.
Addressing violence in general has always been among the concerns of the Federation. However, violence against women still exists, especially from the psychological point of view, belittling their abilities and possibilities, underestimating them.
Therefore, in conjunction with the Attorney General of the Republic, we have established a complaints line (telephones: 0801 212 345 and 7206 90 77 88) for women, in case they can not reach the police, where they can report any behaviour of this kind, and take appropriate action.
We have dedicated it to our youth and the 90th birthday of Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro.
Throughout the year we have been holding welcoming acts for more than 37,000 new members across the country, and recalling many of the tasks of the organization, which is now 55 years old, for example the first graduation from the Ana Betancourt schools, where over 14,000 campesinas graduated as dressmakers. And not only did they learn to sew, but they also learned about their rights, and to seize the opportunities offered by the Revolution.
The FMC today has over four million members: 90.6% of women over 14. This is our greatest strength: the ability to exchange with women of any educational level, background or sexual orientation.
We also seek to learn how they wish to participate, and we adapt our work to their realities. Of course, prevention and social care work, work with families and working for equal rights and opportunities, are our essence; but how we do this depends on them, in each of the places where they are organised.
Of course, our members support the Federation through monthly contributions. But there are also those who want to be members of the organization and have no means of paying contributions, and are accepted. Because the public policies that we promote, the workshops, the talks we hold in communities, are aimed at all women, and represent their interests and rights even if they don’t have a membership card.
Also, the Federation has held consultative status as an NGO at the United Nations since 1997. Thanks to this, we have presented oral and written contributions in defence of the Cuban government; but we have also done so in defence of Palestinian, Syrian women... And every year we further strengthen our grassroots organizations, as there is no doubt that our main setting is the community, and from there we have to strengthen our structures.
We have strengthened partnerships with the Ministry of Education, and this has allowed us to go into schools, exchange with girls to address issues such as teenage pregnancy, addiction, various health programs or symbolic violence through the media…
We fiercely defend that one can not speak of the achievements of the Revolution without noting that the emancipation of women has been one of the most significant. What greater advance than the fact that 48.86% of the members of our National Assembly are women? And that 42% of the members of the Council of State are women? And that, of the 17 Political Bureau members, four are women?
Among our fundamental purposes is the defence of the Revolution; because if we compare what we were and what we are, there is no alternative.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN CUBA...
I would say that there is still sexist behaviour, behaviour that underestimates the role that women can play, and which are remnants of more than 500 years of patriarchal culture. However, the majority of Cuban society today is aware of what equal rights and opportunities constitute.
For example, when the Constitution of the Republic arose, it stated: women should enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men. That is, the reference point was men, and we wanted to catch up with them. That was a mistaken concept of equality.
And when the constitutional reform was held in 1992 this was changed. Instead it read: women and men have equal rights and opportunities.
And if a woman accepts discrimination, she is making a mistake, because all the necessary spaces have been created to complain against any act harmful to her dignity; events of which continue to occur, but it is necessary to identify and act on them. However, it is very difficult, the President in his report to the 7th Party Congress dedicated a space to speaking about the emancipation of women and their role in society, as it still occurs to some, from an institutional point of view, that we can not hold any responsibility.
I believe that Cuban women are a symbol for what we have been able to do. And I think we are all important. And in the challenges we face today to build a sovereign, independent, democratic, socialist, prosperous and sustainable nation, we play a crucial role.