The International Day against Gender Violence was commemorated earlier this month in Havana. The Day had been instituted to pay tribute to three courageous women who struggled against Rafael L. Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, the Mirabal sisters.
Shortly after the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959, local women began to participate in public life and enjoy the same rights as men. A deeply rooted patriarchal culture, however, has encouraged abuse, aggression and subtle forms of psychological pressure and control.
"Gender violence is a silent epidemic," some people feel. "We women strongly believe that it is a silenced epidemic," said Clotilde Proveyer, head of the Women's Chair at the University of Havana.
"Although some progress has been made in the last 15 years, much is still to be done," she added. "What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg," she stressed.
“Women have a vital role to play in climate change processes,” said Susan McDade, United Nations resident coordinator in Cuba, at the launching of the 2009 World Population Report.
Entitled Population and Climate in a Changing World, the document urges to move from theoretical discussion to practical action.
“There will be better opportunities to adapt to climate change and minimize its impact only after population dynamics are duly taken into account,” the text indicates.
McDade told media representatives that the relationship between climate change and population growth is very seldom given careful consideration.
Secretaries are employed to handle correspondence, keep records, and manage routine and detail work for superiors. Most of them are women.
Organized by the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment's Knowledge Management Company, the 3rd International Meeting of Secretaries and Assistants took place on November 18-19, in Havana.
Held every two years, the event promoted experience-sharing among representatives of Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, Angola and Cuba.
The meeting's main topics included the rules of etiquette and protocol, basic skills in the knowledge society, and information and communication technologies.
A woman wakes up in pain because her husband has cut off her nose, eyebrows and lips with a knife. A man living with another woman uses her blood to write the following note on the wall: “I had to kill her because she was a bitch”. The pieces of another woman’s body are found in a plastic bag in the middle of the street.
These are not horror stories, but true events that involve women who are abused and killed by their husbands, ex or some gangs.
The National Institute of Statistics (INE) published these findings in a report on gender violence in 2007, but they are still very relevant today.
Attorney Yolanda Sandoval told SEMlac that there are men who kill their wives in the street to give the impression that the action has been committed by criminals.
“The Judiciary will review my case next May. I reported it last December. I had to see a forensic doctor and take psychological therapy under precautionary measures. As I do not have any money left to pay for therapy, I go to a public hospital where arranging a mental health appointment takes over five months,” said Florencia, a 47-year-old Peruvian woman who had been abused by her husband for years.
“I will start the process to get divorced after the sentence is passed,” she added. She has three daughters, a son and six grandchildren, lost most of her teeth in fights with her ex, and currently works at a street cleaning company.
“We had been separated for eight years, but it was only three years ago that I managed to get him out of the house. I was cooking when he approached me. I threatened him with the knife I was holding in my hand. When he tried to hit me, he slipped and pricked himself in the arm. He was so scared that he left us. My daughters witnessed everything,” she recalled.
According to the People’s Defense Council, 10 local women are attacked every hour and another 12 are seriously wounded or killed every day. Most victims are aged 15 to 45 and just a few manage to advance their cases in the Judiciary.
The number of women’s murders in the country has grown since the June 28 coup. This statement is contained in a report that the Resistance Feminists Coalition has submitted to the Organization of American States’ Human Rights Commission.
“The current situation is due to a lack of protection for victims and weakened human-rights institutions,” said Adelay Carías, a Coalition member who helped prepare a report on women’s rights violations in the last five months.
The Honduran National Autonomous University’s Violence Observatory and the United Nations Development Programme put together a study showing that a total of 312 women had been killed in 2008.
There have been around 30 women’s murders every month so far this year, totaling 325 by October, according to the Attorney’s Office for Women, which was established last year.
Women are the main characters in Mafia Dolls, the new local television soap opera that has been on the air for a month.
The series has sparked controversy over the role of the media in shaping femininity patterns.
Its director Luis A. Restrepo had produced The Boss on the life of Pablo Escobar and There is no paradise without women, on teenage girls practicing transactional sex to support their families.
The latest TV opera deals with six women who have sexual relationships with drug traffickers.
A new agricultural production modality is being introduced in Cuba today.
Alioni Ascencio, a 33-year-old farmer, in the eastern province of Granma, had never imagined to obtain high yields.
"When we began working at La Milagrosa farm 10 years ago, two farmers used to cover around 4.5 hectares. There are now five every nine hectares," he told SEMlac.
"We produced some 30 tons of banana, onion, tubers, tomato and other vegetables last year, and plan to close 2009 with over 60 tons," he added.
Olga L. García has been a hair stylist for over 10 years. While she cuts, shapes and dresses women's hair, they usually speak about a wide range of issues.
She works at Aphrodite hairdressing salon in El Cerro, a municipality in Havana where the project Beauty and Health has been implemented for several years. The idea has been to help prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, provide counseling services, and distribute free condoms.
"We were trained as health promoters for this purpose," she told SEMlac. "We always highlight the need to have safe sex (using condom)," she added.
"While the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Cuba has been affecting mainly men (80 percent of total cases), the number of infected women has been steadily growing in the last few years," said Ana L. Orman, national coordinator of the Women's Project at the National Prevention Center (CNP) for STIs, HIV and AIDS.
Irrigation plays a key role in agricultural production. Abel Almira, a farmer in Cueto, a municipality in the eastern province of Holguín, knows that really well.
"We lost the entire corn harvest last year due to drought," he told SEMlac. "We are very happy to have a sprinkler system installed. We are planning to sow a field with corn and beans," he added.
The irrigation project in question is part of a cooperation program that is being implemented by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through its Community Development Fund.
Managed by Canada's CARE, the project counterparts are the Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians (ACTAF) and a local Agricultural Research, Training and Extension Unit (UEICA-H).