From Uganda to Cuba: women’s rights are central to equality

Touching down in a hot Havana, the head of Oxfam International was quick to express her curiosity about our Caribbean island. We were intrigued and excited to meet her. Winnie Byanyima is a renowned African women’s rights activist, who through her work at Oxfam has stepped up the fight against economic inequality across the globe, and now she was here in Cuba! 

On our island, we live and breathe politics. So the recent changes have been challenging for us to fully comprehend, never mind a visitor from faraway Uganda. Everywhere we go, everyone is abuzz with questions about the economy, equality, public policies, and Cuba’s relations with the US – to name just a few.

Oxfam learns from Cuba and Oxfam contributes to Cuba

“There is nothing more powerful in the fight against inequality than universal education and health – as you well know here in Cuba.”

This was Winnie speaking to the National Economists Association of Cuba, which has been advising on the country’s economic reforms that have been underway since 2008.In her speech, Winnie drew on data from the United Nations Human Development Index about Cuba, asserting that it has to continue to be a good example of how an equal society functions. This made me proud as a Cuban to hear.

Since 1959, Cuba’s Revolution ensured universal access to education, health and culture for all. These are key drivers, as Winnie said, for enabling equality. Engagement with economists showed how the recent reforms in Cuba have brought to light gaps in equality that Cuban people were not aware of.  But now is the time to redress the balance as the wave of Cuban reform takes hold.

Oxfam is keen to join Cuba on its journey of economic and social reform, as the Cuban voice is crucial to overcoming the struggles against inequalities around the world.

Farming in Cuba. Photo: Marianela Gonzalez/Oxfam

The power of Cuban women 

Gender Justice is central to Oxfam's work around the world, and we are proud to support the Cuban campaign to eliminate violence against women and girls.

To this end, Winnie met with several women’s rights activists on her trip. They told her why and how they became involved in the movement. Inspired by what she heard and saw, Winnie requested for a Cuban documentary about women and equality to be shared in the countries where Oxfam works on women’s rights.

The power of women is not just apparent in Cuba, but throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Before Cuba, Winnie went to Honduras to meet the family of Berta Cáceres, who was an Indigenous activist murdered in March. Marking Berta’s memory, Winnie said, “the women of Latin America and the Caribbean have created an extremely powerful connection between them.”

For me, as an advocate for women’s rights and as a Cuban, it was immensely moving and powerful for me to hear a woman from Uganda speaking about a Latin American heroine of mine.

Oxfam’s commitment in Cuba

For over twenty years, Oxfam has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Cubans in their pursuit of equality and dignity. Before her departure, Winnie said she hoped we will continue on this journey together.

Oxfam has been working in Cuba since 1993, in partnership with local organizations and in support of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. It has provided accompaniment to local authorities, governmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and communities to strengthen and support sustainable and equitable development for women and men. 

This entry posted by Marianela González, Communications Officer, Oxfam in Cuba, on 16 August 2016.

Photos: Women farmers, members of Cuba‘s National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP). With funding from the European Union, the Basque Agency for Development Cooperation and the Japanese Embassy in Cuba, thousands of people from 85 cooperatives across three Cuban provinces and ten municipalities are benefiting from a project aimed at supporting urban and suburban agriculture, along with reducing gender-based disparities in Cuba‘s rural communities. Credit: Marianela Gonzalez/Oxfam

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