Away from the official propaganda

Away from the official propaganda

On paper, there is equality, but Cuban women continue to see themselves in the weaker role. Her experiences and her worries, but also her hopes in a Cuba on the move are the focus of this year's World Day of Prayer.

They sing about the beauty of Cuban women, their pride, but also about everyday racism and discrimination. On stage, Magia Lopez exudes a very special power. Their lyrics are full of tender poetry, but the rhythm is pounding. Lopez is a pioneer in many ways: she is one of the Caribbean island's few well-known female rappers. But above all, it gives a voice to Afro-Cuban women. "When the Cuban Revolution won, it was a mistake to think we were all equal," she says. "Today it is clear to everyone that there is racism and homophobia."

Cuba is this year's focus country of the World Day of Prayer, a worldwide ecumenical movement of Christian women. Together, the Christian women look at the socialist island, which is currently undergoing a historic upheaval. How Cuban women see their country? What are their concerns and hopes? – these are the questions of the World Day of Prayer.

Differences between paper and practice

Equality between men and women is official party policy in Cuba. The socialist island was the first country in the world to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is established by law that there is no wage difference between the sexes. About 40 percent of members of parliament are female, as are nearly half of the Supreme Court justices. The medical care is free and is considered the best in all of Latin America.

On paper, much has been achieved. "The numbers are spectacular, but the dilemma hides behind them. Don't be blinded," warns Isabel Moya, one of Cuba's leading feminists. Laws were made quickly, but the rethinking in society took time. Cuba is still considered a macho society.

"Politics is male dominated"

"For all the government's boasting, the real participation of women in decision-making is low," independent journalist and blogger Yoani Sanchez also said at a forum at the International University in Florida. "We live on a continent where politics is male dominated. Cuba is one of the worst examples in the region," she says. Problems such as domestic violence are simply hushed up, and the police and judiciary do not care.

The chairwoman of the opposition movement "Ladies in White," Berta Soler, also takes a hard line on the officially proclaimed equal rights. Freedom for women and for blacks exists only "inside the revolution, not at all outside," she says. After attending Mass, the women's group marches through Havana's Miramar neighborhood every Sunday to draw attention to the fate of political prisoners. Again and again, members have also been arrested. Lawyer and human rights activist Laritza Diversent speaks of "institutionalized violence and specific discrimination against women involved in opposition movements".

Hard everyday life: Often several incomes necessary

Despite proverbial Cuban joie de vivre, daily life is tough. Many of Cuba's women have to struggle through the economy of scarcity and have become true survivors in the process. The economic reforms initiated by President Raúl Castro bring new opportunities, but above all uncertainty.

Those who rent out private rooms to vacationers, drive cabs or work as tourist guides get by quite well on tips in U.S. dollars. But many women need several incomes to make ends meet. Even highly qualified female scientists are in the same situation: a female doctor earns barely 45 euros a month, a female teacher much less. Lucky is he who can count on remittances from family members abroad.

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