Women in Cuba

by Mimi George and Catherine Downey

When we think of the Cuban Revolution it is Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and the men who fought the Baptista Regime of totalitarianism. Little is mentioned of the roll of women. While on the bus to the western mountains of Cuba, we asked our guide “Can you speak to the role of women in the revolution?”

He replied “Women began to fight beside the men in 1869—long before Fidel was born. During the late 1950s, Celie Sanchez was Fidel’s right hand in the field for several years. For over almost a hundred years our losses were huge. But because the people of Cuba, including many women, were willing to fight, we eventually did win. After our military victory she became known for her women’s touch as we strived to create equality for every person. When she died in 1980 she was the most mourned person in Cuba.”

“In Cuba, women get equal pay, and every person gets the same pay no matter what kind of work they do. 6 or 7 women go to university for every 4 men. 64% of University graduates are women.” Our eyes widened…but there was more.

Jesus continued. “Young Cubans must choose their educational and professional focus when they are 18 years old. But scientists have shown that young males are not as mature as young females. So our people put more pressure on girls to perform than boys. Perhaps that is why 65.6% of professionals in Cuba are women. 70% of government officials are women. Women are the majority of elected leaders in 10 of 15 provinces in Cuba. 48.86% of our parliamentarians are women. 74% of prosecutors and 75% of judges are women.   Cuba has 200 research institutes and 41% are led by women. These statistics are just to give you an idea of the role of women in Cuban society.”

Our jaws dropped. We then wondered how women might have influenced post-revolutionary Cubans to become so focused on health, education and social well-being?   At that time we were driving by the International Medical School of Cuba. We were informed that here medical students from all over Latin America and many other countries, including the USA, are trained as physicians who want to be specialists in prevention of illness and promotion of health. Jesus added “60% of Drs. and 63.5% of science and technology professionals are women. 74% of medical professionals are women.”

For the women on our tour bus these statistics about the role of women in Cuba are a story of hope.

Mimi George, PhD and Catherine Downey, ND

Crew of Gershon II

22 March, 2016, Havana