Cuban Scientists Want Gender Gaps on the Political Agenda

Women and Girls in Science. Illustration:

Out of the people dedicated to the sciences, technology, and innovation in Cuba, 53% of them are women.

By IPS-Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – Recognizing each other, forming alliances, supporting each other, and continuing to knock down barriers is the order and path of the gender equality stuggle, experts from different fields said, gathered together on the “Women with science” panel for March 8th.

Organized by Editorial Nuevo Milenio at the ALBA Cultural Center in Havana, PhDs in science Mariela Castro, Rosa Campoalegre, Yamila Gonzalez and Belinda Sanchez spoke about breakthroughs and gaps.

In Cuba’s world of women, they compare their achievements in incorporating women at universities, the so-called hard science and social sciences, education, and medicine, with the excess burden of domestic work they bear and their leading role as caregivers.

Patriarchal bias and feminisms

Castro, a PhD in Sociological Sciences, pointed out that Cuban science is losing significant contributions from female scientists who have taken on the care of children, the elderly and family members suffering health problems, even in the biotechnology sector, which is costing society dearly.

According to information made available in the past 10 years, she said that women have predominated administrative and technical personnel and have had positive performances as managers, but they haven’t managed to exceed 36%.

“We are extremely happy with what we’ve achieved, but we have to carry on scrutinizing and looking for every patriarchal and male-centered bias that crops up in our professional lives, especially as female scientists,” she urged.

She also pointed out how trans women, who have equal education-related opportunities thanks to public policies, often suffer transphobic bullying that might lead them to abandon their studies, which limits job opportunities for them later on, and may lead them to turn to prostitution, if they are kicked out of their homes.

According to Castro, women’s accomplishments during the Revolution, their contributions, and benefits, which are well-known and legalized, are something to be proud of, “but the critical capacity to question contradictions and put them on a political agenda, that allows us to monitor whether they are being respected, their impact and effectiveness.”

Sociologist Rosa Campoalegre, from the family study group at the Psychological and Sociological Research Center (CIPS), and the head of its Nelson Mandela Professorship, defended the existence and contributions of black feminisms in Cuba.

She said that “Feminists have known that there are many feminisms, for a long time, as well as the diversity that exists among women, and there will be black and other forms of feminism while there are still hearts, thoughts and barriers that need to be deconstructed.”

She explained that black feminisms weren’t born in the US, “this is manipulation, it’s hegemony of power, knowledge and gender. They were born in Africa, with every black woman’s political performance before her captors, on the slave ship, they were born in Cuba with Carlota (who led the uprising at the Triunvirato sugar mill in November 1843), with her performance of leadership against Spanish colonialism.”

“We are feminists because we fight against the patriarchy, black feminism is rebel, it comes from the brinks of society, it’s critical theory, it’s a battlefield and is also a place of declaration, because it’s black women’s point of view, which is different because of the historic conditions under which we’ve joined the struggle for our liberation,” she said.

Damage from the machista viewpoint

Lawyer and professor Yamila Gonzalez warned about the key points relating to the draft Family Act (same-sex marriage, adoption and changing the term “parental rights” for “parental responsibility”), which is currently being subjected to a popular consultation.

She believes that “they are linked to every patriarchal and machista stereotype that exists in our society,” as well as quite a few people taking on, without reading the text, other people’s opinions, and interpretations, some out of ignorance and others with bad intentions, and they are manipulating the content of this draft bill.

The lawyer stressed that opinions about a family unit are one thing, but it’s a very different thing “to want to limit, in name of the Law, other people’s rights to enjoy their lives and life projects as they see fit and to be protected by the law.”

She defends that this is what is at stake, “we are talking about a matter of rights, human rights, protection and safeguards” and I believe that we need “a culture of rights so that we can understand what the line is between my opinion and a discriminatory position.”

Belinda Sanchez, from the Molecular Immunology Center talked about her experience in scientific teams, mostly made up of women.

The scientist said that “one thing we need to learn as women is to recognize each other, know that we are beautiful, capable, strong, intelligent and equal. Beyond the workspace, we need to do this on a social level, we must make women understand who she is and what she is worth.”

In work carried out in Cuba to create a vaccine against COVID-19, she pointed out that “they have known how to put their mark and sensitivity, the extra that is needed sometimes so that the union between groups is real and results are reached a lot faster.”

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