Cuban Women: Revolution within the Revolution

Written by Cubasi
Monday, 23 August 2010 12:32
federacion_50Anne has nearly 80 years, but still remembers the early years of the triumph of the Revolution. Her mind goes very quickly through the changes that were happening one after another. She quotes almost exactly Fidel’s words, his call to women and the challenge of creating a new country.

Ana remembers it very well so she raises the tone of her voice when she wants to reaffirm something calling her attention as if she were to differentiate the past with the present and anticipating the future.

“Darling, you have had the privilege of living a better time. Women have had to fight hard to have the freedoms we enjoy today. It could be only achieved with a social revolution like ours and a political leader like Fidel. He understood women must be trusted.”

When she speaks of those years I can not stop thinking about my grandmother, a poor peasant who had no right to study for the simple fact of being female. According to her parents, she only had to learn how to become an excellent wife and mother.

“You can imagine that all that was very difficult,” continued Ana, – some men did not understand that women were to work at jobs with equal responsibilities. I could tell you thousands of stories of my female partners who had tough battles with her husbands and even the mother-in-law because of that.”

We laughed and took a break to drink the cup of coffee served. Meanwhile, I keep thinking of the women in my family. I remember my aunt, who from time to time regrets not having been brave enough to confront the male chauvinism of her husband and gone to college to study law. “I think it would have been an excellent attorney,” said my aunt with some anguish.

“You surely believe it is a lie, but it was the truth, said Ana, who is recalling the events of that historic August 1960 in which the FMC was set up, Vilma’s work as head of the organization, the Houses of Direction to the Women and the Family, and the unconditional support of Fidel to projects for development of equality between men and women.”

I think of my mom and then I see her visiting working women in their houses to convince them of the benefits of the creation of Day Care Centers.

“Nonetheless, that was a nice time because we were aware that something good was going to emerge out of it. When I see my daughter and my granddaughter as independent women, masters of their own destiny, it gives me great joy to be a Cuban woman. And above all, I am proud to have been involved in this transformation. Now it’s your turn to continue battling to maintain the achievements reached so far,” says Ana with that smile unique in her almost 80 years.


Since the early years of the triumph of the Revolution, the Government of Cuba attached great importance to the role of women in the development of the new society in which men and women would have the same rights and duties.

The social changes in our island after January 1, 1959 put women in the center of a dynamic that was considered by Cuban leader Fidel Castro as a “revolution within the Revolution” due to the changes that were happening in the minds of Cubans and the active role of women in decision-making.

During the decade of the 1970s, several laws, which granted women special rights in Civil Law, Family, Agrarian Law and Employment and Social Security were approved and amended. So the female workers have guaranteed inter alia, their right to receive a wage based on the value of their work, social security, pre- and postnatal motherhood, protection against occupational accidents and diseases.

It is undeniable the transformer role played by the FMC in this tough battle over the past 50 years. The organization has fought for women’s interest, contributed to their civil education and worked very closely with all government, political, social and mass organizations to foster equality.

Founded on August 23, 1960 at the request of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Vilma Espin as the organization head, the FMC was erected as a mass organization responsible for developing policies and programs aimed at achieving the full realization of equality in all areas and levels of Cuban society.

At the achievements attained by women such as the right to vote and to divorce, it joined the full integration to work, economic independence, as well as the right to determine the number of children, culture, literacy and free health care.

With more than four million members, representing 88.5 percent of women over 14, the organization has made Cuban women to mostly occupy important spaces in the economy, health, education, the science sector and the legislature, but still not enough.

They represent 46.7 percent of employees in the civil state sector, 67 percent of college graduates, and more than 70 percent of workers in health and education.

During the last term, women’s presence in the National Assembly of the People’s Power reached 43.32 percent, which means that Cuba ranks fourth worldwide in terms of the number of women in Parliament, according to trade publication of the IPU 2009.

The country is also working for the implementation and progress of the major international treaties on gender. Cuba was the first to sign the convention “On the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the second to ratify it, which has been recognized repeatedly by international organizations.


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