For a Less Alienating International Women’s Day

Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — Today, women in over 50 countries held a Great Strike on International Women’s Day. They demand certain points which they consider to be ignored, poorly handled or dismissed on their national political agendas. They demand the full exercise of their rights, which translates as a better life for everyone.

In Cuba, women only celebrate, like they have been for years now. There are lots of reasons to celebrate, I’m aware of that. We need to be proud of the struggles that Cuban women have taken on throughout history, and we enjoy many of their victories today: the right to vote, to make decisions about our own bodies, to have access to healthcare, to work and an education, to get divorced, to Parental Authority, to equal pay for the same job for both sexes, to legal protection while pregnant; etc.

These are extremely important achievements, which women still fight for in many other countries. However, should we make do with this? Is there nothing left to fight for?

I believe that there is still a lot to be done in all spaces; in the home and in public, as well as the personal sphere. In order to demand change, we need to leave behind our apathy and ask ourselves what our wishes and inconveniences are.

Do we want to continue with just one organization that groups us all together, without a choice? Do we want our children to continue receiving political indoctrination at school, to continue to be forced to enlist in military service? Do we want the female figure to stand out just for her beauty or alleged tenderness, while music videos, which public TV promotes, continue to be charged with sexist messages? Do we want to continue on without knowing what the crime rates in this country are, and just how many of them are related to gender violence?

Do we want the high percentage of women who make up Parliament to continue on in their roles without representing our specific interests?

We have to ask ourselves lots of questions and it’s important to awaken our capacity to react in the face of injustice. It isn’t fair to just raise our voices when it has to do with a dominating male. We should also raise our voices if Power, whoever it might be, gets its hands on any of us, something which we suffer all the time and have naturalized. For not wanting to make a scene and cause a problem or because we let the government think for us, we have allowed – and a lot of the time participate in – beatings and public abuse of helpless women. Several generations of Cubans have grown up witnessing this abuse.

How can we make somebody understand that this isn’t fair? How can we then talk about how unacceptable physical and psychological violence is in the home? How can we hope for a better future?

If we awaken this innate detector we have for injustice, we won’t be calm when we receive flippant greetings on March 8th while a single person suffers, whether that’s because of domestic violence or because of what the government does to people who think differently.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.