We wake up in the morning and the media tells us about the world. Among the deluge of headlines in recent days one figure stands out which defies simple mathematical analysis: 48.86% of deputies to the Cuban National Assembly are women. This is an event which cannot be overlooked by the National Secretariat of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and one we wish to share with our people.
The 299 recently elected deputies did not reach their seats as the result of a quota policy, a strategy utilized in various countries of the world to promote gender equality. They are in the Assembly on the basis of their own merit and popular recognition of that merit. They are a reflection of the development achieved in all spheres of the country’s economic, political and social life set in motion by the Revolution within the Revolution, or the process for equality of rights, possibilities and opportunities between women and men.
An analysis of the 2012 World Map of Women in Politics allows us to appreciate the relevance of this fact beyond our borders: the average of women parliamentarians at the global level is below 20%. Thus, the 48.86% places us as one of the countries of the world with the highest female representation in Parliament.
Our women deputies have dissimilar experiences, different ages, and various professions. They include a young athlete with disabilities, workers, students and government ministers; even a religious leader. They will contribute their experiences, talent and patriotism in the exercise of people’s power at a moment of great significance for our country.
It is incumbent on them to make every effort. As FMC members they must assume the missions entrusted to them during the term and act in a way which honors the confidence placed in them, as representatives of the most genuine in Cuban society.
In the case of the Provincial Assemblies, women delegates comprise 50.5%, an unprecedented figure. Never before have women been in the majority in these government bodies. And, going further, 10 women are provincial presidents and seven vice presidents. In Matanzas, Mayabeque and Las Tunas provinces, both responsibilities are held by women. However, this has not been an abrupt or enforced leap. Both in the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies, the presence of women has seen a gradual, but sustained increase.
In addition, observing the electoral process, there is a majority presence of women in all aspects and stages of the elections.
REAPING WHAT WE SOW
The results of these People's Power general elections are the consequence of the coordination of the political will of the Cuban state to advance the development of society in conditions of equality; the work of the Federation of Cuban Women, which has promoted through legislation, activism and community work, the rights and leadership of Cuban women; the profoundly humanist thinking of Fidel; and the unique imprint of Vilma Espín.
Once again we turn to statistics to illustrate this: women currently comprise 63% of university enrolment, more than 60% of the technical and professional sector, and more than 70% of attorneys in the country. They also constitute a majority in key sectors such as health and education. In scientific research they are a significant force. We could contrast this data with the 1953 census, when barely 12% of the female population was in paid work.
ROAD TO TRAVEL
However, a look at the election results for the country’s Municipal Assemblies, totally composed of delegates elected from the base, confirm that there are still some subjective obstacles to the promotion of women.
On this occasion, women attained 33.6%. It is true that this figure is nearly five times greater than in the initial 1976 elections, where barely 8% of women were elected, but if we compare this result with the abovementioned percentages in the Provincial Assemblies and Parliament, there is still a notable gap.
The challenge facing Cuban society now is located in the subjectivity of men and women. Political will and advanced legislation to promote equality are not sufficient when we are faced with value judgments, customs, stereotypes and prejudices rooted in traditions and culture. And although much has been achieved in 50 years, this is a short period in comparison with 500 years of a Western Judeo-Christian culture built upon exclusion and the subordination of women.
For this reason it is necessary for each FMC delegation to continue working to eliminate stereotypes and prejudices in all spheres of society, including the family, the media, the community and schools, as reflected in the objectives approved by the National Conference of the Communist Party.
IN THE LONGTERM
A prioritized task for the FMC is to attend to these women who represent the people from the constituency level to the National Assembly, so that they will be able to undertake their work successfully. Many initiatives can be promoted in each location: interchanges, training workshops, support and recognition within the community and family.
A Chinese proverb says that the first step is the longest one. Cuban women, together with their Revolution, took that step more than 50 years ago. The active presence of women in government bodies is a continuation of this march.