By Manuel E. Yepe

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Women achieved excellent results in the recent Cuban general elections, confirming a remarkable progress in the just assessment of the role of women in society. This has been an essential goal of the Cuban Revolution since its triumph more than half a century ago.

The general election began in October 2012 with the voting of the delegates to the Assemblies in 168 municipalities of the Island and will conclude on the coming 24th of February with the new 5-year legislature in the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular [Parliament] in which  in 67% of its membership was renewed.

Of the 1269 legislators, recently elected on February 3rd for a 5-year term to the 15 provincial assemblies in the country, half are women. Ten of the assemblies chose women as presidents and seven chose women as deputy presidents.

This female citizen empowerment is the result of 54 uninterrupted years of programs aimed at achieving womens equality in Cuba; a process that has covered areas in the economy, politics, legislation, social policies and cultural patterns in a still-patriarchal society.

Among the reasons that promoted this advance in the Poder Popular are the growing participation of women in paid employment, the fact that since 1978 more than half the technical and professional Cuban labor force is female, and since 1993 they represent two-thirds of this force. For three decades now employed women in Cuba have had higher education levels than employed men.

For a long time, women have deserved a larger representation than the 1/3 they had achieved in the total leadership in the higher state and government institutions, but the prejudice derived from the prevailing male chauvinist and patriarchal mentality, together with well-known material and resource obstacles for the full equality of women, made it necessary to strengthen the revolutionary political will to correct such stubbornness. 

There are still other obstacles and injustices that limit women'd empowerment in the political, economic and social context. The most visible is the double work load burdening women –whether they are doctors, scientists, judges…or members of parliament –who as a rule undertake most of the everyday household shores. This is a tradition that goes back to the days when women were practically excluded from employment. With an increasingly aging Cuban population (18% are 60, or older) whose care generally falls upon women, the household work load is bound to increase and it will burden women even more.

This is an immediate challenge for the Cuban socialist project. Material limitations must not be a pretext for the postponement of such a just endeavor.

The struggle for women's equality, a prioritized objective since 1959 by Cuba's revolutionary leadership, is linked to another effort that –although not a banner in the initial stages- is now paramount for the future development of the socialist society in Cuba

In the battle for gender equality, Cuba shows considerable progress in terms of the eradication of discrimination and gender violence that goes far beyond the upgrading of Cuban legislation to make it more inclusive and fair in these matters. The struggle against homophobia, the care for its victims and the follow-up that these problems demand are increasingly reaching society as a whole.

On February 24th, the Asamblea Nacional  del Poder Popular will be constituted when the 612 representatives elected on February 3rd take their seats for the new 5-year legislative term. At the meeting, the members of the Council of State and Council of Ministers will be nominated and designated. The Council of State will have 31 members and will be made up of a President who will be the Head of State and Government, a First Vice-President, five other Vice-presidents, a Secretary and 23 members.

More than 50% of the legislators in the renewed Cuban Parliament are women, and obviously in its appointment of the leadership for the higher state and government Institutions it is quite likely to anticipate that the trend of an increased female participation – evident in the constituted municipalities and provinces- will continue.

February 2013.