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Cuban women, beyond the postcards. By Ania Terrero

Isabel and Mairelys are in the red zone, they serve children who are positive for COVID-19. Dagmar and Verena design and test Cuban vaccines against the dangerous disease. Beatriz and Tamara organize government management in the face of consecutive outbreaks of the new coronavirus. Lisa and Aymée receive smiles, even with masks, the babies who come into the world in this time of fear. 

Marta and Meisi lead ministries with leading roles in months of ordination. Leticia and Rosy go out every day to relate the challenges of the country. Miriam and Diana try to continue university teaching beyond the classroom. Adriana and Lisett offer key public services so that life does not stop. Oday and Ailin juggle telecommuting and taking care of their children together.

These real women are not the only ones in each of their roles. Like them, many others confirm every day their leading role in the Cuba they live in. After almost twelve months since the new coronavirus arrived in the country, this March we celebrate International Women’s Day with different forces. The pandemic, which changed the rules of the game around the world, brought to light latent conflicts and unavoidable strengths also on gender issues. 

It is no coincidence that the United Nations dedicates this day to the role of women leaders in the search for an equal future marked by COVID-19 . UN Women called to celebrate the enormous efforts they make and to enhance their capacities.

In these endeavors, it is no secret to anyone, this archipelago is no exception. Cuban women are in the first line of response to the disease: they are more than 70 percent of the people employed in the health sector.There are many who work in hospitals and isolation centers, carry out tests for the specific diagnosis of the virus, or are part of some of the medical contingents that have gone to various countries to help them in the face of the pandemic.

In addition, they assume political, economic, and social positions, key and courageous. Not only the economic and social update, so necessary for the country, found support in them. They also give their best in government management, in distance learning, in research centers, in the productive sectors, in public services, and in private businesses, among other sectors. 

The busy life of the last year, with each and every one of its conflicts, confirmed once again that Cuban women, based on the work of organizations such as the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), conquered practically all spaces and won many other battles…

Equal rights and opportunities achieved and strengthened in different areas during the last six decades – same wages for equal work, access to education, right to property and inheritance, right to family planning and safe abortion, among others – are tangible realities.

However, the prominence achieved in public life is not always accompanied by an equitable distribution of responsibilities inside the home. As a consequence, women continue to deal with double shifts, among other problems. 

At the beginning of 2021, this medium collected the opinions of various specialists and listed some of the challenges to be faced in Cuba on gender issues. In addition to the overload of domestic and care work in women, the experts referred to the need to systematically evaluate the progress of the ordering task from a gender perspective. 

In the midst of a redesign of the state company and a growth of the private initiative and the cooperative, it is urgent to protect the social insertion of women as well as to avoid impacts on the equity gap, the distribution of employment, and wages.

Other challenges point to the increase in early unions and teenage pregnancy; sexism in many media, cultural products, and social networks, and the permanence of stereotypes in Cuban society, as a threat to the popular consultation process of the new Family Code.

At the same time, it is necessary to improve a comprehensive and integrated system of attention to sexist violence, which includes improving its legislative treatment.From naturalized harassment in compliments and psychological violence within relationships to other much more serious episodes, gender-based violence against women continues to be a problem in the country and the pandemic adds tensions.

According to the National Survey on Gender Equality ( ENIG-2016 ), carried out by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) and the FMC Women’s Research Center, 39.6 percent of the women interviewed declared having suffered violence at some point in their lives, in the context of their relationships.On the other hand, in 2019, the Cuban national report on compliance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reported a femicide rate of 0.99 per 100,000 women aged 15 years or over for 2016. 

These are the most recent data that illustrate the scope of a conflict that is not always visible in the country. However, confinement through, it is logical to assume that assaults inside the home have increased in recent months. 

Fortunately, from the point of view of the institutional confrontation with gender violence, many things have changed for the better during the last year. The months of isolation also served to dream, design, and approve proposals that seek to uproot myths and sexist stereotypes, denature inequality, and drill, little by little, the foundations of patriarchy.

Cuba approved its National Program for the Advancement of Women (PAM), which explicitly recognizes the persistence of manifestations of violence in Cuban society, articulated with those unequal power relations inherited from machismo. Therefore, the legislative scene around this issue stands out as one of the main areas of work.

Not for pleasure, in an appearance for the television program Mesa Redonda, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Republic of Cuba Alina Montesinos recognized the country’s will to advance in the legal implementation of protection against gender violence and explained that the problem demands not only the elaboration of one or several laws but also mainstream gender treatment to institutions and legislators.

Also in 2020, Cuba approved the Cuban Comprehensive Strategy for Prevention and Attention to this conflict, and Line 103 expanded its services to respond to complaints of gender violence and other mistreatment that occurs in the family setting. After it, a well-articulated system is organized for a referral to other essential services of the protection system, such as the police, legal, or health services.

A Guide with a set of theoretical, methodological, and practical tools, audiovisual capsules, and a map of key places to make the corresponding referrals support the training of all personnel linked to the line.

The Campaign Together for Non-Violence, an initiative of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), also arrived last November. With a Zero Tolerance message, it seeks to make visible the institutional commitment to the elimination of a scourge that painfully persists.

They are the very necessary first steps of a complex endeavor. The causes of violence, and of many other problems, lie in the dominant macho culture, transmitted from generation to generation, which conditions relations between women and men. And that does not change from one day to the next: it appears in any corner, social network, cultural product, or communication medium and moves from the symbolic universe to real life.

March 8 is not a randomly selected date. It has among its antecedents the struggle of thinkers such as Clara Zetkin or Rosa Luxemburg, the death of 123 workers in a textile factory in New York for working in terrible conditions, the strikes and work stoppages of thousands of women throughout history for elementary rights. . 

Now that we have so many achievements assured, International Women’s Day must be to celebrate them; but also to commemorate the sacrifice of those who fought relentlessly for equality and achieved the first changes. Beyond congratulations, flowers, and postcards, it is another justification to follow their examples and fight for the rights that we still lack; denounce gender violence in all its manifestations, and educate in principles of equity and respect. 

Hopefully and it will also serve us to defend our capacities and potentialities so that we do not have to cross the street avoiding being harassed; so that no one hurts us for being women; to close the wage and labor gap; so that the distribution of housework is more equitable; so that there is no sexism in the media and cultural products; so that girls are not frowned upon for playing with cars and balls; so that we abandon all those imposed and absurd beauty patterns; so that they do not attack or offend us for defending our rights; so that we can be happy, all of us. 

source: Cubadebate

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