Reflections on Cuban Women
In late 2003, I led a group of San Diegan women to Cuba where we joined fourteen other women on a tour organized by Global Exchange. Our purpose was to attend the International Women’s Congress at the University of Havana, where several of us presented papers, mine being on the global atrocity of human trafficking.
Another goal of the trip was to meet with as many women’s groups as possible to learn about women’s rights in Cuba. Women journalists explained that the Cuban Revolution cannot be maligned, but must always be acknowledged for its gains, its successes. Fidel Castro’s first Manifesto committed the revolution to the creation of “a legal framework for the advancement of girls and women, connecting them to social services, education, and health and to the world of work.”
The Federation of Cuban Women was tasked with implementing the framework to advance women, their rights and opportunities. Each neighborhood centered around the federation’s facility which was organized and led by women to provide the health and social care for all residents. From this work in the neighborhood, these women became highly effective leaders. Assigned to each facility, a physician met the primary health needs of his or her constituents.
The achievements of this program have been spectacular! Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas. The World Health Organization recently certified Cuba as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. Cuban immunologists accomplished several vaccination breakthroughs: meningitis B, hepatitis B, and lung cancer. Also successful was its vaccination campaign against malaria as well as its program to restore sight to 3.5 million people in Latin America. Several years ago, the United Nations recognized Cube for its efforts to provide adequate food for all its people.
Equally important is the high percentage of women in its Assembly, 48.9%, placing the country fourth in women’s representation worldwide. The creation of women leaders stems from the efforts of the Federation of Cuban Women to train women at the local level, leading to the national.
We can only conclude that the Cuban Revolution has been highly successful in advancing women, especially under the economic hardships imposed by the U.S. with its blockade of the island. We women in the United States have so much to learn from Cuban women who embraced the Manifesto in working to reach the goal of advancing women. Our Cuban sisters are an inspiration to us, and they are to be commended.
Immediate Past Board President