Women from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) visited the Cuban Embassy in Ankara and interviewed Consul Mayvet González Fernández on the gains of women by socialism in Cuba.
ICP, 10th March 2017
Women from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) visited the Cuban Embassy in Ankara and interviewed Consul Mayvet González Fernández on the gains of women by socialism in Cuba. The English translation of the interview, which was published on the soL news portal is as follows:
First of all, happy 8th of March, dear Mayvet. Could you introduce yourself to our readers?
I have been working in the Cuban Foreign Ministry for 20 years. I worked in Greece from 1996 to 2001, then in Austria and again in Greece in 2010. I have been in Turkey since January 2016. Apart from my duties abroad, I was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Havana in Cuba. Also in 1991, while I was studying at university, I worked at the Youth Computing Center. These centers were opened thanks to Fidel's effort and aimed to familiarize citizens of every age with computers and other technological developments. Additionally, I'm from Havana and I have a 14 years old son.
March 8th is a day of struggle for us, rather than a day of celebration. After the 70s, 8 March is being attempted to be turned into a day when demands within the capitalist system are uttered, perhaps even a day when the bosses give flowers to female workers. In socialist Cuba, how is the 8th of March like, and how is it celebrated?
First of all, let me remind you that the leader of our revolution, Fidel's saying: ''This revolution is a revolution achieved by the oppressed and for the oppressed.'' We can say that women composed the most oppressed in the society in that time. Because women were the most oppressed in the society that the revolution took over, on 23 August 1960 the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) was established. Its founder Vilma Espin was also its president until she passed away in 2007. Vilma, who had been in the guerrilla war on the mountains, met Raul Castro here, and a love was born from here, too.
March 8 is celebrated like a feast day in Cuba. Men always compliment women, it is like a tradition in Cuba. This day has a different meaning, for example, in the workplaces men greet their female business colleagues with flowers, postcards and music. They serve coffee during the day, they prepare a cheerful, flashy lunch and they serve women all day. Meetings are held at every workplace and presentations are made about women's memorials who had been in struggle of Cuba and the achievements of our history.
You stated that on the 8th of March men serve women in their working places. Is it opposite way on other days?
Generally, there is a division of responsibility for domestic work in Cuba. This was one of the most important struggle issues for Cuban women. In our sense, changing the daily life was not having men help women, instead it was an equal distribution of responsibility. Both men and women work outside the house, generally they arrive around 6 pm and the one who arrives first is the one who cooks. On weekends, cleaning is done together in collaboration. Taking care of the education of the child is also a responsibility taken on in collaboration. These responsibilities are not only of the mothers nor of the fathers. On the other hand, our society still carries the impact of macho culture. We are talking about a heritage of 500 years. Before the Cuban Revolution, women’s place was in the house. Now this has changed, women had become a part of labor outside the house and so the responsibilities inside the house has changed as well. Up until a recent time, parental leave was only for “women”. Thanks to a law codified 4 years ago, now we have “parental” leave. Fathers as well as mother may use this leave. Another law codified one month ago allows either a grandmother or a grandfather to use maternity leave.
“I WARN MY SON WHEN HE TAGS A WORK AS “WOMENS’ WORK”
Federation of Cuban Women organizes from neighborhoods to national level, consisting of a lot of steps. In this organization one of the most important institutions is Female and Family Orientation Houses. These are existent in every neighborhood. Every Cuban women when they turn 14 can be a part of this organization. Nearly 90% of Cuban women are members of FMC. In the youth organization, the women are in the front, too. As an example, leaders of high school and university organizations are women now.
Of course, the mentality should be changed starting from the childhood. When my son does not want to do some work, and tags the works as “women’s work”, I warn him rigorously. On the other hand, actions are much more important than words. We try to be role models for our children.
Hence, 8th of March for us is a standing point of celebration on an ongoing struggle. We keep on struggling, but we have celebrations on 8th of March.
When we turn back to the process leading to 1959, what was the role of women in Cuban Revolution?
Before the revolution, the role of women in the society was marginal. They were almost nonexistent in the working life, but this did not mean that they did not struggle. There was a lot of women in Jose Marti Union of Citizens, for example. The role of women was very important in 26th of July Movement. At that time, women were believed to be incapable of having a political thought and women were not even doubted. Police forces did not stop a woman or a couple that frequently. Later, women changed this situation into an advantage. They hid many things including guns and flyers under their creolins. Women in houses joined those women, too. They sewed clothes and arm-bands of guerillas. Apart from fighting on the mountains in the guerilla struggle, carrying secret documents was also done by women. There was also one troop composed of women. Mariana Grajales Coello’s name was given to this troop. Fidel kept Celia Sánchez on his right side. Both during the wartime and after revolution they took lots of decisions together.
Again, when Haydée Santamaría was taken prisoner, she responded to the those who threaten her with the murder of her brother with these words: “My brother resisted even though you put his eyes out. Do you really suppose I will speak?” They never ever achieved to scare Cuban women and this struggle continued after the revolution, too.
‘48% OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY IS COMPRISED OF WOMEN’
Are women in Cuba saved from all the inequalities and injustices that women confront in the capitalist system? What kind of steps were taken with the Revolution?
Since January 1, 1959, steps were began to be taken forward rather swiftly to get rid of the inequality that capitalism created. The inequalities to which women were exposed were important components of those steps. One of the most important struggles was the literacy campaign. There were even 13-14 year-old girls who participated in the campaign. Furthermore, the literacy program called “Yes, I can” which was developed by a Cuban woman pedagogue named Leonela Relys in 2000’s provided millions of people all around the world with the ability to learn how to read and write.
55% of the population of Cuba and 48% of the work force is made up of women. FCW has 4 million members. 80% of adult women are workers who does jobs that necessitate qualification. They are graduates of colleges and universities. 60% of healthcare staff and doctors are women. 48% of the deputies in the National Assembly is comprised of women. We are the 4th country in the world in this regard. 42% of the Council of State and 28% of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba are comprised of women.
Our country has always been the pioneer in the region in the matter of women’s liberation. For instance, in 1965, Cuba declared that woman is the sole authority to decide on the issues regarding her body. Cuba was the first country in Latin America in this respect.
Although there no legal restriction abortion is not allowed in action in Turkey. In the case of a marriage, it is obligatory to get the man’s consent...
Consciousness of birth control in Cuba is rather high. In case of an unintended pregnancy, women have no obligation to ask for the consent of anyone, including the man. For sure, reconciliation can be preferred. However, women are not obliged to ask for man’s consent. In the General Assembly of the United Nations, it was Cuba to be the first country to sign Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Which struggle topics does the Federation of Cuban Women (FCW) put on its current agenda?
The struggle of Cuban women is still in progress at the present time. FCW is not an organization that is solely interested in women rights. It is also interested in the country’s agenda. We are working for the increase in the culture of equality and equal participation in social life. It is one of our aims to stay organised, actualize our aim and put it into practice not only in national level but starting from neighborhoods.
Equal share of housework is also still in our agenda, and we are trying to make it better.
It is another responsibility of us to get the youth to have more part in our ongoing revolution. For the acquisition of new generations, we are striving to make it understood why socialism is a better system than capitalism.
Also, in the 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, a sustainable development program for 2030 was enacted. The 5th article of it covers the subject of empowering women and kids, and also reinforcing gender equality.
So, if socialism itself is an egalitarian system, why is there a necessity for the Federation of Cuban Women?
As we have mentioned, there are still ruins of the former social structure although we covered a long distance. On the other hand, we must struggle continuously so that we will not lose our gains and it is important to protect what is already existent. In addition, we consider it is a necessity for women to have an organization for which they will say “our organization”. Here, we debate on all the agenda in Cuba from the perspective of women also with the comprehension abilities and sensitiveness that are special to us. Though we trust our socialism, we still need this kind of an organization. Let me answer this question with a quotation from Vilma: “Socialism for Cuban women is freedom, independence, sovereignty, honor, social justice, security of our children’s growing and development, the right to equality, the right to live, the right of self-determination, the right to struggle for a dreamed future and to defend it as far as in us lies.”
So, do the Cuban women draw their strength from their unity? Can we say that?
We say in Cuba “there is strength in numbers”. This is necessary not only to be strong, but also to think more right and to contrive together. It is very important that the women of Turkey are struggling as well. I am very happy for the things I hear from you.
Ourselves, we struggle for our rights which we have from birth as civil liberties but were taken away.
And finally, we would like to state this: Our doors are always open to you. We hope to see you again.