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The empowerment of Cuban women

The vital role of Cuban women in the economic, scientific, and political life of the country is demonstrated by their remarkable social advancement, confirmed in 2018 by a female majority in Parliament, the second in the world.

 

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Marta Denis Valle

 

The role of women has been advancing steadily over the last six decades since their almost anonymous presence during a period in which 73.8% classified themselves as housewives and they made up 55% of almost a million illiterate people in a population of six million.

With 33.5% of the country’s workforce (738,000 people) unemployed or underemployed, there were few job opportunities for women. Among these were poorly paid jobs such as tobacco workers, seamstresses, cooks, and housemaids.

At that time, women constituted only 3% of university graduates; in 1953, there were just 403 female doctors (6.5% of the national total).

Today, women make up 58% of university graduates and more than 62% of admissions, which explains why they comprise 69% of jobs in the public health and social welfare sectors, and 47% of scientific jobs.

There is a strong feminine presence in practically all spheres of Cuban society, representing 46% of employees in the public civil sector and 17% in the private sector.

Women make up eight of every ten prosecutors, and perform highly skilled duties in the police and the armed forces, the navy, and the different branches of the Ministry of Interior.

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Maids, office workers, teachers, all types of engineers, professors, doctors, nurses, businesswomen, managers, and ministers alike all receive the same salaries as their male counterparts, in accordance with the job value and level of education.

The feminist movement in Cuba has been developing since the second decade of the Republic. In 1923 and 1925, the first and second National Congress of Women in Latin America were held by the Federation of Cuban Women’s Societies in Havana, with the agenda including topics such as female suffrage, civil rights, child protection and other social issues related to women.

Cuba was the first Latin-American country to enact a divorce law in 1918, and the fight for suffrage was achieved in 1934, before most other countries in Latin America. In practice, however, this meant very little in terms of benefitting women.

Female suffrage was granted by means of Presidential decree and confirmed in the Constitution in 1940. Women fought against Machado’s dictatorship, and in the last war, there were dozens of female messengers, clandestine fighters in the cities, guerrillas in the mountains, heroines and martyrs, all of whom opened the way for the liberation of Cuban women during the revolution from 1959 onwards.

Today, Cuban women enjoy full social equality and since 1976, have achieved continual progress in the different bodies of the National Assembly of People’s Power, being elected to the Municipal and Provincial Assemblies and to the National Assembly (Parliament).

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The 219 female deputies elected to the VI Legislature (2003-2008), double the 105 of the first Legislature (1976-1981), constitute 35.96% of the 609 members of Cuban parliament.

In the VIII Legislature (2013-2018), 49% (229) of the 612 deputies were women, and in the ninth, whose 605 members were elected on March 11, 2018, 322 women comprise 53.22% of the members of the National Assembly of Cuba, an unprecedented number.

In Cuba, 87.5% of women hold university degrees and the average age is 49 years old; young women aged 18 and 35 comprise 13.66%, and black and mixed race women comprise 51.8%. In terms of employment, 17.7% of women work in health and education, 15.8% in the production and service sectors, while 3.72% work in research.

Millions of Cuban women are involved in the electoral process, from young schoolgirls who look after the ballot boxes, to teenagers, mother, and grandmothers who take part in the polling stations and electoral commissions at district, municipal, provincial, and national level. (PL)

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: lucy.daghorn@gmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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