Fidel Castro The Unlikely Feminist
Fidel Castro is dead but he has left behind a strong legacy of involvement in feminism. Didn’t know that? We look at some details:
Castro ruled Cuba for almost 50 years before his brother took over in 2008. Legend has it that Castro has survived countless American assassination attempts but at this moment, we can’t help but stress upon his stand on women and how he championed women’s rights on the island. During his reign, many women rights groups were formed which executed various notable campaigns and are still going strong.
- Fidel Castro was more of a nationalist symbol of bringing in a bond between Cubans and the feminists of the country.
- Under Fidel and Raúl Castro’s leadership, ‘Women’s Work: Gender Equality in Cuba and the Role of Women Building Cuba’s Future’ was formed to enforce rules and laws guaranteeing gender equality and women’s rights in Cuba.
- After the implementation of the gender equality rules, Cuba was known to be as one of the highest-ranking nations in the advancement of women — something that the world should learn.
“How can we give rifles to women when there are so many men who are unarmed?” asked some of the men. “Because they are better soldiers than you are,” Fidel replied. “More disciplined.”
- In 1958, at the time of the revolutionary war against the brutal US-backed Batista regime, the Mariana Grajales Women’s Platoon was formed by Fidel. According to the reports, 13 women were grouped to battle. Formation of the platoon raised eyebrows, but the world would remember it as the first women’s combat unit to serve in the revolutionary war, which was a beginning for revolutionary transformation of women in Cuban society in the years that followed.
- One of its leading woman combatants, Tet Puebla’s (who served as the platoon’s second in command) book Marianas in Combat educates us and most importantly, gives insight into the struggle of Cuban women to overcome discrimination, sexism and oppression in Fidel’s days.
- In 1959, the day after the triumph of the general strike of Batista’s flight from Cuba, Fidel Castro in a speech highlighted the points of the urgent need for Cuban women to be released from the discrimination and oppression they suffered in the past. He also stressed upon the importance of their participation in the defence of the revolution. “A people whose women fight alongside men â that people is invincible…”, he told the Cuban people.
- Of the many groups Fidel helped set up, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) in 1960 is anotable. The FMC forum was formed with the aim to discuss the particular needs and concerns of Cuban women. Over 85% or 90% of Cuban women over the age of 16 participated in discussion, and through which FMC became one of the principle mass organizations in Cuba today.
- During those days, thousands of women were added in the militias and CDRs, providing them a path to actively participate in the revolutionary process. In every sphere, those women developed their confidence and to challenge old stereotypes.
Fidel Castro, who may have had relationships with many women in his time, but also through his rare speeches and a conscious effort, had broken down many prejudices against women in Cuba. Some stereotypes still needed to be shattered, but Fidel’s movements with women have actually laid the groundwork for the revolutionary transformation of women in Cuban society.
Today, women in Cuba are in the front line of the Cuban military. They also make up 43.6% of the Cuban workforce (compared to 19.2% in 1953) with the majority of women employed in technical and professional roles. Interesting to say as the Cuban Congress is 22% women, and 50% of Cuba’s doctors are women. The FMC revolution almost eliminated prostitution, too.
Like Raul Castro, who ended the announcement of his brother’s death by shouting a revolutionary slogan, with the same words we shout out for Fidel Castro and his manoeuvres that helped Cuban women rise and shine — “Towards victory, always!”
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