Mariela Castro: Many Fall into the Campaigns’ Trap

Amid the National Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, CubaSí interviewed Mariela Castro Espín, Head of the National Center for Sex Education, a Cuban woman who has earned the right to talk about all these subjects.

—When do these subjects start to be thought over and addressed in Cuba?

—Women earn less than men in both Europe and the US. In Cuba, the first law approved by the Revolutionary government — February 7th, 1959 — one month after the triumph of the Revolution, achieved equal pay for men and women. That is to say that such inequality was no longer a problem for us after January 1st, 1959. Other issues remained as Revolutions do not have magic wands, unfortunately. In this regard, we need to work harder to find better solutions. But we have not stopped working, not for a second.

“Cuba was the first country to sign and later ratify CEDAW. This subject was addressed by the Federation of Cuban Women since its earliest days with the existing knowledge on the issue back then, which developed gradually in our nation. In this line, the Federation of Cuban Women was always progressive and quite active in the eradication of violence against women, boys, and girls. I, daughter of a member of this organization, can confirm that my mother cared personally for women with very complex emergencies when these situations were not subjects of debates around the world yet; not even scientifically. From 1980s on, the Federation of Cuban Women has had delegates responsible for the care and prevention of domestic violence. Over the years, they have done an excellent job. Indeed, they involved researchers who were already working violence issues.

—And right now, what is the approach of the island’s efforts?

—In recent times, we are trying to grouping more institutions and organizations from the civil society and the State in order to foster alliances, campaigns, actual actions and thus, see how we introduce them to politics, how to introduce them to legislative changes resulting from the constitutional change, which aims to reviewing this reality, among other things.

“The work is being done here. The State has addressed the issue. In the first international symposium against gender-based violence, sexual tourism, human trafficking, and prostitution, a special attention to all forms of violence was agreed to be later discussed at the National Sex Education and Health Program. Then, we submitted in September the proposal of a comprehensive sex education policy and sexual rights to the Ministry of Public Health. Within such policy, the program for the attention to violence-related problems is being considered. We are nowadays working the best we can and with new legislations looming. This is actually being considered as it is captured in the Constitution.”

—However, we are the target of several questioning especially in social network.

—There have been attacks to discredit our institutions, people in general; for instance, me. OnCuba was the first to crusade against me, when I said in a documentary that there was no femicide in Cuba. But a Cuban journalist working for OnCuba focused on that little excerpt. And she quoted that alone, without the arguments. Then, there are people who switch their fashion chip on and adhere to every campaign coming from Miami and begin unfair, pointless attacks with deep ignorance, which by no means help in the development process of the subject.

“There is a lot of money on the table, especially from the US government to five major evangelical churches, which are the ones trying to undermine many initiatives. They are using this term of gender ideology, which was created by a Catholic bishop in the 1960s, precisely to discredit international advances in the field of women's rights and the Marxist view in relation to this subject. And our Revolution, as Fidel stated, has the right to defend itself, has the right to defend its social achievements, rights that have been endorsed in the Constitution and throughout the legislative system that is already being altered from the constitutional change. There are more than 50 laws on the list of those that are going to be reviewed; but commissions for each of them are to be created. It will be decided whether there will be a comprehensive law for the attention to violence against women or this law will be included in other laws. Work is already in progress.

—As a specialist and also an activist, as a Cuban woman, what is the main message to convey at this time?

—I think the first message is that we should study. We must be educated on this issue because there are many people who fall into the traps of campaigns to discredit our efforts. People who are poorly prepared and log in Facebook posting certain stuff. Besides, we must not act in isolation. We have to join forces, make alliances, because every time we make alliances and unite, we achieve effectiveness. We really make changes. Then, let’s not follow the game of the enemies of the Revolution. Let’s join forces, organizations and institutions that are really working, which are open to all the ideas committed to the revolutionary work that are truly sincere.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz/CubaSí Translation Staff

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Cuban Woman Is a Daily Heroine, Diaz-Canel Says

President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Friday recognized on International Women''s Day the daily heroism of Cuban women and their leading role in the struggle for independence and just causes.

'Happy International Women's Day, Cuba, a nation of women and mothers of so many heroines: 'mambi', clandestine, Moncada, guerrilla women, internationalists, everyday warriors', Diaz-Canel posted on his Twitter account.

The president recalled a thought by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who expresses: 'I am absolutely convinced that the society will win more to the extent that it is capable of developing and taking advantage of qualities, moral, human and intellectuals of women.'

The day coincides with the closing ceremony in Havana of the 10th Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women, a forum in which the challenges of women and their protagonism in the construction of a prosperous and sustainable socialism are addressed.

After decades of being celebrated on several days, in 1975, coinciding with the International Women's Year, the United Nations honored international women for the first time on March 8th.

  • Published in Cuba

More Than 40,000 Women Candidates in Mexican Elections

More than 40,000 women appear today as candidates for the July 1 elections in Mexico, and they did not escape from the violence which accompanied the electoral process.

A political-electoral reform in 2015 led to gender parity in the nominations of political parties, but it is in these elections that it is applied more rigorously.

Therefore, for the first time, 40,162 women will be candidates for different federal and state positions, which announces that women could have a greater political and state presence.

Only one woman currently holds the position of governor, out of 32; in the Chamber of Representatives that was dismissed, they reached 42 percent and 25 percent in the Senate.

In the country's 2,68 municipalities, there are barely 339 women mayors, and in the state of Campeche all the municipalities are taken over by men.

Mexican women politicians are also the target of organized crime groups, who are credited with the majority of the 133 murders that marked the election campaign.

17 women candidates have been executed since September, and the Simone de Beauvior Leadership Institute (ILSB) has recorded 49 cases of gender-based political violence.

However, the Special Prosecutor's Office for Electoral Offences (FEPADE) has dealt with barely less than a dozen investigation files in this regard.

From 2012 to August 2017, Fepade recorded 187 cases of political aggression against women.

  • Published in World

I am a country woman driving a Yutong Bus

There is nothing impossible for Idania Perea Leon. She does not remember how or when she started driving but she points out she is a “country woman with a helm in her hands.”

She was born and raised in the Abraham Lincoln sugar mill, in Artemisa. She confirmed she has driven everything at her 49 years old. She has been the driver of Kamaz trucks, ambulances, and buses.

We would say her determination has been paramount. She has become the one and only woman driving a Yutong Bus at the Base Business Unit Augusto Cesar Sandino, from the National Bus Company. She also is part of the group of driver that covers the route Havana-Santa Cruz del Sur and Havana-Nuevitas, both having final destination in Camaguey (more than 400 miles one-way route).

“I have spent more than twenty years as professional driver. And this has been one of the requirements to be part of the company.”

Except for the ladies working in the office, the rest of the personnel is made up of men. Have you ever been discriminated?

I started three months ago covering this very same route. They have welcomed me very well. They take care of me and help me a lot. I have not had any issue of that kind.

That man…does he share your viewpoint?

His name is Amaury Suarez, but everyone here names him Pepe. We were born in the same province. We know each other for years! He has accepted me and we help each other.

Don’t you feel small in front of a Yutong Bus?

It is true it is a big bus. But the National Bus Company trains well its drivers. Those who cannot drive with skill are told not to continue the training.

If you have to have any advice to other women who loves to drive like you do, what would you tell them?

If you have experiences and you drive safe, I urge you not to fear. There are things in life harder than driving and we achieve it. It is a wonderful job. And I feel proud of being the first woman to drive a Yutong Bus.

You should always do what you want even though it may look difficult. Everything has to do with your skill and your efforts. It is also important to highlight the support of the company’s director, who has encouraged me to reach this level.”

What is the opinion of passengers?

Their first reaction is like…They froze. Afterwards, they realize I drive safely and they relax. It has happened many times that some of them want to take a picture with me at the end of the trip.

As professional driver, what is your biggest challenge?

As every woman, my home and my marriage. I have no children, but I do have two loving nephews who live with me.

Within a few years, you will likely go down as the first woman who drove such a big bus…

Yes, may be. But I am not thinking about it yet.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz // CubaSi Translation Staff

Every day against violence: Unite

Although the call is to celebrate sixteen days of social activism against gender violence, the intension of Cuban artists who have decided to join this initiative goes much further beyond.

Singer-songwriter Jan Cruz, who gave the opening concert of this day in Cuba, told his reasons to Cubasi:

It’s necessary, we should unite all these artists, many people follow the criterion we could have on certain topic and then it seems to me it is important to be part of this, because we are living at a time, when there’s violence in all sites we look at, if you watch the news bulletin you see wars everywhere, people mistreating themselves right in the streets, it is not only physical violence, but psychological one as well, so I think that if I can achieve with my music that people be more peaceful and perhaps reconsider I would feel just great…”

Carolina Fernandez studies performance and blindly believes in art’s ability to communicate and share values, that’s why she joins it: “I support this struggle against violence, especially gender violence, I think that from art we have a lot to say about this topic. I also think people receive messages very well through art: a song, a play, I think it’s easier for people to understand what we want to convey through these creative forms”.

Of course, for them the commitment includes life and work, thus explains the author of “Aviones de Papel” (Paper Planes): “Since I started in the previous campaign, I attended several workshops in which I learned many things and now I work on my songs, my videos from another point of view and try to handle my image that way, always avoiding violence, being careful when treating women…”

Danilo de la Rosa Serrano, coordinator of the “UNITE to End Violence Against Women” campaign, explained that “this year Havana will dedicate its sixteen days of activism to two historical figures, two figures who have extolled women’s participation and empowerment such as our beloved Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro and Vilma Espin”.

Precisely, the leader of the Cuban Revolution will be honored with a concert due to take place next Wednesday, December 6 at ALBA Cultural House in El Vedado, Havana, which will feature the participation of singer-songwriters Raul Torres, Mauricio Figueiral, Adrian Berazain, among other Cuban artists.

Almost thirty years adding days against violence…..

According to Danilo, this initiative arose in 1991 “at the proposal of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and since 2008 it is supported by the United Nations through the “UNITE” campaign launched by the then Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, to put an end to female violence, campaign that, of course, has reached a great rise in Cuba since 2010 under the message “I say No” (Yo digo No). The campaign is held every year between November 25, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and December 10, as Human Rights Day”.

From Cuba, government and society also unite to multiply the message these sixteen days for non-violence against women and girls:

“There are three campaigns in Cuba: “You are More”, a national campaign, boosted by the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Center, which is an ecumenical NGO and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). There’s also the “Unite Cuba” campaign under the message I say No to Violence against Women, as well as, of course, this new campaign here in Havana, that arose a year ago under the initiative of the “UNITE” Community Sociocultural Project, jointly with the Federation of Cuban Women and other organizations and bodies….”

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

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Social Conditions of Black Women in the US Revealed in Study

The report urges that “institutionalized racism and sexism within the criminal justice system as well as elsewhere in society,” be properly addressed.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance and Institute for Women's Policy Research released a report titled, “The Status of Black Women in the United States," which compiles data collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

RELATED: Women, Afro-Latinos Face Most Latin America Inequality: CEPAL

The report outlined Black women's “essential contributions to the productivity, wealth, and success of the nation.” Despite their dedication, after having been brutally exploited through centuries of chattel slavery, the report found that black women's “contributions to the U.S. society and economy have been undervalued and undercompensated.”

Among its series of findings, the report shows that:

The median annual earnings for Black women “lag behind most women's and men's earnings in the U.S.

Black women experience poverty at higher rates than Black men and women from all other racial/ ethnic groups except Native American women.

Black women’s average incidence of AIDS is five times higher than any other racial and ethnic group of women.

Quality child care is unaffordable for many Black women.

Black women of all ages were twice as likely to be imprisoned as White women in 2014 (109 per 100,000 Black women were imprisoned in state and federal prisons compared with 53 per 100,000 White women).

Black women remain underrepresented at every level of federal and state political office in the United States.

The number of businesses owned by Black women increased by 178 percent between 2002 and 2012, the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups of women and men.

Between 2004 and 2014, the share of Black women with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased by 23.9 percent, making Black women the group of women with the second-largest improvement in the attainment of higher education during the decade.

Black women experience intimate partner violence at higher rates than women overall.

The findings of the report emphasize the urgent need for several policy interventions that directly address the needs of Black women in the United States. They include protection of voting rights, salary improvements and access to quality jobs, reduce costs of caregiving to families, increase access to education and health care, support programs for victims of violence.

Most importantly it suggests that “institutionalized racism and sexism within the criminal justice system as well as elsewhere in society,” be properly addressed.

  • Published in World

Testosterone explains why women more prone to asthma

An international research team has revealed for the first time that testosterone protects males against developing asthma, helping to explain why females are two times more likely to develop asthma than males after puberty.

The study showed that testosterone suppresses the production of a type of immune cell that triggers allergic asthma. The finding may lead to new, more targeted asthma treatments.

One in nine Australians (2.5 million people) and around one in 12 Americans (25 million) have asthma, an inflammatory airway condition. During an asthma attack, the airways swell and narrow, making it difficult to breathe. In adults asthma is two times more prevalent and more severe in women than men, despite more being more common in boys than girls before puberty.

In 2016, the city of Melbourne, Australia, experienced a 'thunderstorm asthma' event that was unprecedented internationally in its scale and severity of consequences, with almost 10,000 people visiting hospitals over a two-day period. Thunderstorm asthma refers to allergic asthma thought to be initiated by an allergy to grass pollen. Many people with no history of asthma experienced severe asthma attacks.

Dr Cyril Seillet and Professor Gabrielle Belz from Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, with Dr Jean-Charles Guéry and his team at the Physiopathology Center of Toulouse-Purpan, France, led the study, published today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Dr Seillet said hormones were speculated to play a significant role in the incidence and severity of asthma in women. "There is a very interesting clinical observation that women are more affected and develop more severe asthma than men, and so we tried to understand why this was happening," Dr Seillet said.

"Our research shows that high levels of testosterone in males protect them against the development of allergic asthma. We identified that testosterone is a potent inhibitor of innate lymphoid cells, a newly-described immune cell that has been associated with the initiation of asthma."

The research team found that innate lymphoid cells -- or ILC2s -- 'sensed' testosterone and responded by halting production of the cells.

"Testosterone directly acts on ILC2s by inhibiting their proliferation," Dr Seillet said. "So in males, you have less ILC2s in the lungs and this directly correlates with the reduced severity of asthma."

ILC2s are found in the lungs, skin and other organs. These cells produce inflammatory proteins that can cause lung inflammation and damage in response to common triggers for allergic asthma, such as pollen, dust mites, cigarette smoke and pet hair.

Professor Belz said understanding the mechanism that drives the sex differences in allergic asthma could lead to new treatments for the disease.

"Current treatments for severe asthma, such as steroids, are very broad based and can have significant side effects," Professor Belz said.

"This discovery provides us with a potential new way of treating asthma, by targeting the cells that are directly contributing to the development of allergic asthma. While more research needs to be done, it does open up the possibility of mimicking this hormonal regulation of ILC2 populations as a way of treating or preventing asthma. Similar tactics for targeting hormonal pathways have successfully been used for treating other diseases, such as breast cancer."

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