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

  • Published in Specials

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."

Cuban Women: Empowerment and Rights for a Celebration

Women's empowerment, and gender and rights equality are some of the achievements Cuba is showing today on occasion of the International Women's Day.

We will honor today those who fought for equality, justice, peace and the full development of women and many other achievements for this segment of the population.

The eastern province of Granma, due to its achievements, will host the national celebrations organized by the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which currently has more than four million members, 90.6 percent of Cuban women with more than 14 years old.

FMC Secretary General, Teresa Amarelle, stated that the Revolution provided Cuban women with the possibility of becoming full human beings, invested with rights and protagonists of the new Cuba, while uprooted years of discrimination, exclusion and ignominy.

Under the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship (1952-1958), Cuban women represented 17 percent of the working population and received a significantly lower salary than men for similar jobs.

Following the revolutionary triumph in 1959, led by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, the generation of public policies to further progress in the inclusion and the deployment of the Cuban potentialities has been a priority.

The FMC, founded by Vilma Espin on August 23rd, 1960, has played a key role in defending the same rights for all and ending discrimination in all this process of emancipation and empowerment, Amarelle said.

  • Published in Cuba

UN Secretary General Calls for Women's Empowerment

UN Secretary-General, António Gutierres called on International Women''s Day today to empower women, as the only way to protect their rights and ensure that they reach their full potential.

In his message for the date, the official warned that the situation of women and girls is worsening in many parts of the world, victims of discrimination, violence and lack of opportunities, among other evils.

'Women's rights are human rights. However, in these difficult times, while our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are reduced, limited and revoked, 'he warned.

According to the UN Secretary-General, the historical imbalances in power relations between men and women, aggravated by increasing inequalities within societies and countries, are leading to greater discrimination against women.

'The rights of women, who have never been the same as those of men on any continent, are eroding even more. The right of the woman over her own body is being questioned and undermined. Women are systematically subjected to intimidation and harassment both in cyberspace and in real life, 'he lamented.

Guterres also condemned that extremists and terrorists build their ideologies around the subjugation of women, including girls, whom they use as a target of sexual and gender-based violence, subjected them to forced marriages and make them live virtually in conditions of slavery.

He also criticized that despite some progress in recent years, they remain affected by the economic disparity and less access to positions in different sectors and levels of society.

The Secretary-General considered that the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development represents an opportunity for the international community to move towards gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, insisted on the urgent need to abandon practices, sometimes translated into laws, aimed at controlling women's decisions about their bodies, health and life.

Zeid offered his support to the women who are fighting for their rights in the five continents.

It is time to unite, to protect the achievements and support them, he stated.

  • Published in World

Thankfulness for their Participation

“Since I began participating in the Gender workshops which were convened by the local José Martí International Journalism Institute and the Mujer Publishing House and guided by Isabel Moya, My life changed and if I even thought that I knew anything about life, it was then since I began having these experiences that I began watching it with its spots and purities and its imperfections. “ She pointed out.

“As a matter of fact, it was that the commitment to which I have dedicated myself to research and publishing the work carried out by some community projects with its experiences about this subject matter.” She said.

It was recently premiered an audiovisual carried out by Lizette Vila and Ingrid León at the Chaplin movie theater from the capital city. They were the creators of the local Palomas Project and those who show a different vision about the diverse kind of violence against women on a current context that demands an urgent visualization of that subject matter by the society in general.

"Estoy viva…lo voy a contar" is the title of the documentary that touches your more sensible fibers of the human being. There are perhaps people who have experienced this kind of violence, but it is certainly chocking the fact about watching the faces of those ones telling their histories, publicly.

Those filmmakers, who have a huge experience, achieved that thirteen women could talk sincerely and shared their experiences to denounce the bad practices which harm the Cuban society.

According to Cuban filmmaker Ingrid León, the local Projecto Palomas project has been accompanying local women since many years ago given they have many difficulties in all the sectors and places. There are many women who approached us to ask for help and being listened, and we can help them from the audiovisual work.

“We always say that we are going to talk to them and Lizette Vila is an expert in that sense. They get nervous when they see the cameras at first and they suddenly begin talking. They even say the phrases ´I have never told this´ and ´This is not known not even by my mother,´ ´this remain unknown by everyone,´ and they begin to tell their experiences and it is incredible because of I do not know how come we can achieve this from happening.” She commented.

"Estoy viva…lo voy a contar" Documentary by Lizette Vila and Ingrid León

Ingrid continues telling us that there is all kind of women from different places and problems who approach her to talk:

“They are victims all different types of violence. This way, we choose the people who are going to accompany us by taking into account that there are women who want to talk and there are other ones who do not want to talk and there are other ones who just come for us to help them to be listened given they´d tried before and none helped them, then they all come to us with that objective in mind.”

The filming team of the local audiovisual material entitled ´Cosas de la Vida´ had the chance to talk to some of the women who talked in that documentary; they were asked about their motivations and participation and experiences before the camera.
One of the women playing the main role of the documentary, who is Mederos Méndez, commented that her main motivation was felling pleased after being invited to participate in the documentary.

“As I am fan of the ´Proyectos Palomas ´ project, I decided to participate. It was really difficult given there are some things in life that we never say or talk about them, and then when the time come to talk about them, this place one in such difficult situation that your tears come out, your voice trembles due to they were very sad memories and they return again and that makes really difficult that situation.” She pointed out.

Mariulys Guerra Estrada, on her part, who also plays a main role in that audiovisual work, commented us that she met Lizette Vila through the local Hola Habana tv program.

“She asked me about a collapse that happened in Havana Vieja (Old Havana) municipality and I said to her that I did not know about that event given those events brought me bad memories. She asked me the reason whether I wanted to share my experience in a documentary. It is even difficult when I talk about a difficult theme given I lost my sister and my mother is sick because of that.” Mariulys said.

“Lizette was invited to talk about the few things I used to feel.” Leticia Santacruz Pérez commented, who is another of the woman playing the main role of the documentary.

"Estoy viva…lo voy a contar" Documentary by Lizette Vila and Ingrid León

“I wanted to denounce what I thought that was missing and she also invited me due to she knows that I am a great defender of the woman as such. I consider myself a feminist one. I used to think that I was not victim of the violence and I realized that I was certainly a victim while telling my history. However, that happened already and I am a grown woman, I was twice operated due to a cancer and I am still here fighting for the human being to be better and the unity and so that the people understand that if we continue with those types of violence, we could be deeply affected due to the economic blockade affect, but it is not sometimes so harmful like the human relations.” She said.


  • Published in Culture
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