Women in Cuba Defending Conquests

Elio Delgado Legon

women-1HAVANA TIMES — For some months now, Cuban women have been enthusiastically organizing the ninth congress of the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC), scheduled to take place in March of 2014. One of the characteristics of this process that caught my attention is the participation of young women, willing to take on new responsibilities within the FMC and to defend the achievements of the revolution.

One really could not expect anything else, for Cuban women have gained much dignity since the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959.

Before that date, most Cuban women didn’t get too far past the second grade in terms of schooling. Though we have no reliable statistics for the time, we know that the female workforce consisted of a few thousand teachers (many of whom were unemployed), a handful of nurses and a great many house maids, all living on measly salaries and under degrading conditions.

This situation – the reality of numerous countries today – has radically changed in Cuba. Today, after 55 years of revolutionary leadership, Cuban women can boast of achievements that continue to be mere dreams for millions of people around the world.

In terms of education and labor, Cuban women represent 65.6 percent of Cuba’s professional and specialized workforce and 62.8 percent of all university graduates. These two, plain figures eloquently show the degree to which Cuban women have been empowered.

Cuba was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), something many countries that call themselves defenders of human rights and try to teach the world lessons in governance have yet to do.

Algerian lawyer Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani, member of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, recently declared in Geneva that Cuba is to be held up as an example in the struggle for gender equality around the world, praising the country for the degree of leadership that Cuban women have secured in all areas.

Today, Cuban women are the majority in the fields of education and public health and are making bold inroads in the sciences. In addition, they are occupying positions that were once the exclusive domain of men.

Many Cuban women also hold management positions in different sectors – we can find them at the helm at schools, hospitals, companies, universities and ministries, as ministers and vice-ministers.

Another interesting fact is that the life expectancy of Cuban women is greater than that of men. This is thanks to health programs tailored specifically for women, such as the maternity and child program, early cervical, uterine and breast cancer detection programs and others.

Holding 48.36 percent of seats in parliament, Cuban women occupy the third place in the world in terms of that indicator. In addition, their reproductive and sexual rights are guaranteed, as is their access to healthcare, education, social security and employment, where they receive the same salaries men do and are able to freely choose their path as professionals.

To sum up, Cuban women reached the UN Millennium Goals long ago and, today, they wholeheartedly prepare for their congress, sure that their achievements will always be respected in Cuba.

16 thoughts on “Women in Cuba Defending Conquests

  • I’ve been surfing from article to article in the Havana Times for almost 4 hours this morning, and this is the first positive article I have read. I haven’t come across any articles so far that reflect any understanding of the theory of communism, but thanks for this article, though I think women would do better to think as much about human rights as they do about women’s rights. To Moses Patterson, hey! A low fertility rate isn’t bad. In fact, Cuba’s success in stabilizing and hopefully starting to reduce its population, in an eco-world being probably fatally undermined by excess human population and human encampment growth, ought to stand as one of the greatest achievements of the revolution. It’s the key to the eventual provision of equal housing, for instance, and to any hope of economic production catching up to and getting ahead of the consumer count, and to the achievement of self sufficiency, very important on an island. -Glen Roberts – iammyownreporter.com

  • Don’t confuse the low incidence of street crime in Cuba with the strength of a “functioning social safety net”. The fact that Cuba is a undeniable police state is more likely the reason there is lower crime. While police states do stifle criminal activity, they are also well known to stifle personal freedoms as well. Careful what you wish for….

  • The full economic statistics are openly reported in the US, including the various categories of employment and unemployment. The lower unemployment rate one usually sees reported in the media are because the journalists quoting the statistics tend to be highly supportive of the Obama and are putting the best possible spin on the employment figures. More critical journalists in turn will point to the full economic statistics which show that the US employment situation is still rather bad. In the US, the media have their biases and give the news their preferred spin, but any sensible reader can inform himself of the full data and make up his own mind. I assume that’s how you managed to learn that the full unemployment rate is much higher than reported in the headlines of the NYT.

    Full US economic data available here: http://www.bls.gov/

    What Fez is describing is a very different situation in Cuba. The government office Fez worked at, ONIE, is the only source for information on the Cuban economy. They routinely lie about the statistics as a matter of policy, especially to foreign international organizations. The only media in Cuba is run by the government and they print only what the government tells them to print. There are no other sources of information (Hint: It’s kind of like an internal blockade, isn’t it?)

    That means the next time somebody quotes statistics from the WHO or UN or UNESCO on some wonderful social or economic results in Cuba, you can be 100% certain the organization in question did not obtain the data directly, but rather they got it through ONIE, direct from the Castro regime propaganda mill. Even the statistics reported at the CIA webpage on Cuba are sourced directly from the Cuban government (as Moses pointed out).

    Recall when the Communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union collapsed, and many gullible Western academics were shocked to learn that the marvellous social statistics they had believed were all false. Life expectancy in the East Bloc & USSR was a decade shorter than reported. Drug and alcohol addiction rates were much higher than reported. Infant mortality rates were higher. Cancer rates were higher. Literacy rates were lower. And so on.

    There is absolutely no sound reason to expect the situation is any different in Cuba. The Castro regime releases false statistics to a gullible international community who lap it up because it confirms their own leftist political biases.

  • Cuban women are voting with their wombs. They are having fewer and fewer children. Cuba has the highest abortion rate in the Western hemisphere. Women of child bearing age are leaving in ever greater numbers. As a result, the Cuban population is aging rapidly and starting to shrink.

    This demographic time-bomb will destroy the regime more thoroughly than any US embargo. Unless and until the Cuban government makes the real changes necessary to convince Cuban women to stay on the island and raise families, then not only is the regime doomed, so will be the Cuban nation.

  • I get out quite a bit thanks. It’s funny to hear you quoting Spiro Agnew.

  • There’s an article over on the Huffington Post about “How to Grow Old Gracefully.” One of the bullet points is to abjure constant negativity. Occasionally, it might be better for your mental health, Griffin, to go off-line, get out of the basement, take a walk in the sun and enjoy the tweeting of the (real) birds, rather than just the artificial tweets of those “nattering nabbobs of negativity!”

  • Aside from a handful of urban centres with extremely high crime rates, (Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, etc) most of the USA has very low crime rates.

    Cuba has lower crime rates than most of the rest of Latin America, (one of the fringe benefits of living in a police-state) but there are places in Havana you would be a fool to walk in late at night.

  • Wow! What a jerk!

    Did you even notice how you wrote a trite, formulaic salute to the FMC, and then in the next sentence reverted to a sleazy, sexist insult in the next???

    You are a perfect example of the condescending progressive male who gives lip service in support of feminism, the very type of man who has limited Cuban women from gaining true sexual equality.

  • Elio wrote:

    “Another interesting fact is that the life expectancy of Cuban women is greater than that of men. This is thanks to health programs tailored specifically for women, such as the maternity and child program, early cervical, uterine and breast cancer detection programs and others.”

    I almost every country around the world, women have a greater life expectancy. This demographic fact has nothing to do with any purported achievement of the Cuban revolution.

    As for the other points, Elio exaggerates the lower status of Cuban women before the revolution:

    “Women in pre-Revolutionary Cuba had achieved a more respectable status vis-à-vis men than women in any other Latin American country. With regard to political rights, Cuban women received the vote in 1934.

    According to Cuba’s 1953 census, the percentage of illiterate males (26 percent) exceeded that of illiterate females (21 percent). Within Latin America only Argentina and Chile had higher female literacy rates (85 percent and 79 percent respectively). With regard to work positions and social status, the percentages of Cuban women working outside the home, attending school, and practicing birth control surpassed the corresponding percentages in nearly every other Latin American country.

    Before the Revolution women had been elected to Cuba’s House of Representatives and Senate. They had served as mayors, judges, cabinet members, municipal counselors, and members of the Cuban foreign service. The Constitution of 1940, one of the most progressive in the Western Hemisphere with regard to women’s status, prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex and called for equal pay for equal work.

    Unquestionably, women in pre-Revolutionary Cuba held an inferior position in the labor force. In 1943, for example, women comprised only 10 percent of this force. Ten years later the figure had increased to 13.7 percent. Thereafter it grew steadily, though slowly; by 1956 to 14 percent and by 1959 to 17 percent. Although dramatically underrepresented in white-collar and blue-collar jobs, women did account for approximately 46 percent of Cuba’s professionals and semiprofessionals. Of course, 60 percent of these women worked in the traditional occupations of nurse and teacher. In 1957 women filled more than 48 percent of jobs in the service sector. About one quarter of working women were employed as domestic servants. Indeed, more than 90 percent of all domestic workers were female. Fewer than 3 percent of Cuban women, however, worked in agricultural, fishing, construction, and transport industries.

    As was true throughout the region, most Cubans tended to view higher paying positions as male jobs. Nevertheless, in 1956/57 Cuban women did enjoy more job security and stability than men and were less affected by unemployment. On the eve of the Revolution the number of women in the work force was increasing steadily. And the legal status of women had improved substantially beyond that of women in many other Latin American countries.”

    In 1879, the first Cuban woman trained in medicine in Cuba was Dr. Laura Martinez Carvajal, who suffered acute alienation from her fellow doctors but later was permitted to work at the Belen Convalescent Home for destitute patients.


    One could go on and on, citing examples of professional Cuban women prior to the Revolution. While it is true that traditional subservient role for women existed in Cuba, their status was still much higher than women in almost all other Latin American countries. New possibilities opened up after the Revolution, but in Cuba as elsewhere the glass ceiling persists. While women have become prime ministers and presidents in many countries around the world, they have yet to achieve such power in in Cuba.

  • I have confidence that women in the FMC and other mass organizations will continue to increase their leadership roles; already, I’ve noted their increasing presence at the last Congress of the PCC. Incidentally, who was the beauty who gave that great inspirational speech at the 50th Anniversary of Playa Giron (the one who kept brushing aside her lovely locks as the wind blew them in her face)? I’d gladly follow her orders! “!A sus ordenes, Comandante!”

  • From your experience at the Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas e Informacion, Fez, it sounds like Cuba must be incorporating some of the same methods used up here by our fedeal and state staticticians. For example, again and again, they say that unemployment is down to “only” 7%+/-, yet with a bit more perception, when one adds up all the folks who are of working age, able bodied, but who just can’t find work and have given up (eg. in the Rust Belt areas or other deindustrialized cities and towns of the New England and the Middle Atlantic States, where there are only so many Mickey D’s, Burger King, or Taco Bell jobs to go around, or are only able to find temp. or part-time employment, the rate really becomes more like 14% to 16%. A more accurate reflection of the true situation in Cuba is the fact that it is still fairly safe to walk around most sections of Habana, even at night, without the fear of being mugged or murdered (and this has been my experience during my five visits, some extended, during the past ten years. This signifies that there is still a functioning social safety net, as inadequate as it is compared to First World standards, while up here, there is growing desperation. Since we are discussing statistics, like the phony unemployment stats, likewise the crime stats up here are low-balled, since many folks in poverty-stricken areas don’t even bother reporting crimes; they don’t trust the police, or they know the police will do nothing anyway, unless it is agains those who, to make a little money to survive, are just selling drugs.

  • Haha you are hilarious and in my opinion well informed about Cuba.

  • Cuba has the lowest fertility rate in Latin America at (1.46). Thanks for the correction. In industrialized countries like Germany and Singapore, low fertility rates have been ascribed to other socioeconomic factors having little to do with a lack of hope in the future and more to do with more women working outside the home.

  • I don’t know Moses where you got your numbers but your colleagues at CIA think that estimated total fertility rate in 2013 in Cuba was 1.46: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html?countryname=Cuba&countrycode=cu&regionCode=cam&rank=196#cu

    Cuba still have higher fertility rate than Germany. Usually the poorer and less educated have more children. On that list Singapore has the lowest and Niger has the highest fertility rate.

  • I give Elio credit for seeing a pile of horse manure and spending his time looking for a pony. I wonder how he explains why these “enthusiastic” Cuban women have the lowest fertility rate (0.8 children per female) in Latin America? How does he explain the record number of Cuban women who sought to permanently migrate to other countries in the past year? How would Elio explain the nearly 6,000 dissidents arrested in 2013 where the majority of those detained, beaten, and arrested are Cuban women? Cuban participation in these ‘national’ events is just short of compulsory. Women who wish to hold on to their state jobs or seek better ones know that they need to ‘play the game’ and be seen in support of these revolutionary activities. No one takes the FMC seriously. Founded by Raul Castro’s wife, it is seen as busy work for women leaving the real influence in Cuban policy to the Castro dictatorship.

  • Is this based in real facts or just typical Granma and one.cu statistics?

    Cuban women in political, industrial or administrative positions are in the same category of men, which is the known normality of following orders from “Arriba”. It means that all the “dirigentes” are just following whatever Raul Castro, el Minint, la FAR and el Consejo de Estado dictates no matter if you are male or female.

    Every time the cuban propaganda tries to bring up some international organization statement about Cuba, reminds me of my year of mandatory social work at ONEI (Oficina Nacional de Estadistica e Información, controlled by the government with no transparency or allowance of any external institution to do surveys or researches in Cuba to gain information) where all international organizations (ONU, UNDP, UNICEF and diplomatic institutions) had to get information from.

    How we constantly lied to FAO about our food statistics causing it to reduce FAO budget (financial help) for Cuba. How we make up numbers for UDHR, and lately what they did that provoked the UE to remove preferential commercial advances to Cuba based on the reports ONEI gives out.

    Lies and more lies.

Comments are closed.