Women’s Day, Another Day of Struggle

Daisy Valera

Photo: Elio Delgado

I remembered that it was March 8, and there I was sitting in front of a market hoping that when it struck 8:00 a.m. they would open the doors.

I could see that inside there was almost nothing to buy (only peppers and malanga). This meant that it would be another week without finding fruit.

Two women who were waiting like me began to talk about International Women’s Day.

“You remember how nice the women’s day parties were in the neighborhood,” one of them asked. The other one confined herself to responding that these days no one was interested in parties, adding that so many problems have made Cubans bitter.

In the meantime, I wondered if many Cubans knew something about the history of women’s day or the many demands many women in the world still have to struggle for today.

I bought that day’s edition of Granma (the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba) expecting more information on this important date.

However there was no reference to the history per se; what would have recounted to us Cuban women that International Working Women’s Day didn’t arise as a holiday but as a day of struggle for the rights of women.

Photo by Caridad

Some would dare say that in Cuba this day is a festive one because women now have the same rights as men and are treated the same way by society.

But to say this it would be necessary to close one’s eyes and not see that prostitution, instead of disappearing, has increased since the most difficult years of the Special Period crisis, when incarceration was not (and never will be) the solution.

Women continue bearing the weight of the home and of child-raising responsibilities, a weight that will increase with the disappearance of workplace cafeterias and the shortage of day care centers.

The new layoff and unemployment will push women toward jobs with low degrees of professionalism and ones traditionally occupied by women, like cleaning employees and food vendors.

People are again going into occupations that were discarded in the early years of the Revolution of 1959 that affect the development of women and exposes them to exploitation, as is the case of those workers now called “domestic employees” (formally “maids”).

After 50 years, we remain immersed in a society with strong macho features and where women are dealt with in many cases only as sexual objects.

You can see this attitude in many Cuban men, who show no consideration when harassing women not only in the streets with their gawking, but also with words and gestures.

Although Cuba has carried out advances in terms of woman’s rights (like the increase in their academic levels and the legalization of abortion) there is still a long road to travel, which could become even more difficult with the increase on the island of private property.

To speak only of the achievements of women without revealing their remaining problems is no way of contributing to deep change.


Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

2 thoughts on “Women’s Day, Another Day of Struggle

  • March 10, 2011 at 9:42 am
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    It isn’t just Cuba where there are similar attitudes.

    I wonder, though, whether women, mothers, in Cuba and elsewhere, are contributing to their sons treating women this way, with disrespect, demanding loyalty they don’t give in return, the daily Cuban male ‘on the street’ treatment of any woman, with not contributing half of the household chores, and so on, by the way they bring them up?

    It’s hard to buck the trends of society, but if each individual mother can do her best to bring up a decent young man, then this is a small but potent step which will eventually snowball into something bigger. I’ve tried with mine: my eldest, recently out of the family home, finds that young women play games that undermine their own position and independence, but hopefully both will be fine men.

    Women’s rights mean little if women don’t respect themselves.

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