Article

Framing for Change: Social Policy, the State, and the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas

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Abstract

Cuba derives much of its national identity from its (fulfilled) commitments to social rights. Among these are achievements in the areas of gender equality, as well as reproductive and maternal health, which are extraordinary given the country's level of development, current economic circumstances, and persistence of traditional cultural norms. This article argues that many of the gains in these areas can be attributed to the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and its ability to mobilize political resources in the constraints and context of the Cuban regime. In particular, the FMC has benefited from UN commitments to women's rights and the international feminist networks that support them. Global human rights declarations and covenants have provided the FMC with avenues for strategically reframing revolutionary, socialist goals as human rights concerns. Because the human rights frame fits with broader nationalistic goals, the state has proved amenable to gender-based social change. The research presented in this article is the product of fieldwork in Cuba and contributes to debates concerning the ability of insider political groups to negotiate an alternate agenda, in addition to debates about the study of public policy (in particular, issue framing) outside of liberal democracies. Resumen: Cuba define su identidad nacional en gran parte vinculada a sus logros en el campo de los derechos sociales, que incluyen logros en cuanto a igualdad de género, y también salud reproductiva y materna, los cuales son impresionantes en el contexto del nivel de desarrollo, circunstancias económicas y costumbres tradicionales del país. Este artículo sostiene que estos grandes éxitos pueden atribuirse a los esfuerzos de la Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (FMC) y su capacidad de movilizar recursos políticos dentro de las posibilidades y limitaciones del régimen. Por otra parte, la FMC se ha beneficiado de acuerdos globales de las Naciones Unidas en cuanto a los derechos de la mujer y del apoyo de redes feministas internacionales. Declaraciones globales de derechos humanos han servido a la FMC para estratégicamente reenmarcar las metas revolucionarias y socialistas como derechos humanos; y ya que el marco de derechos humanos encaja con las más amplias metas nacionalistas, el estado es sensible al cambio social en base a género. La pesquisa presentada en este artículo es el resultado de un trabajo de campo llevado a cabo en Cuba y es una contribución al debate sobre la capacidad de grupos políticos internos de negociar una agenda alternativa, y además al debate sobre el estudio de enmarcar políticas en la esfera pública cuando el régimen no sea una democracia liberal.

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... Today, the language of human rights is often used as strategic leverage to push for political and social goals embedded in principles of social justice, equity, and human dignity 52,53 . Central to the present discussion is the normative advancement of human rights protocols within the context of global development and national health discourses. ...
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Para empezar debería hacer una aclaración: Cuba y América Latina están incrustadas en mi identidad y memoria, ya que el camino de mi vida se cruzó con estas partes del mundo y hasta la actualidad estoy fuertemente vinculada a la región latinoamericana. Hoy día mas que nunca, no solo por lazos profesionales, sino también familiares. Aunque durante varios años mis investigaciones se concentraban en el ámbito del desarrollo regional y demográfico a escala macro regional, el tema de Cuba volvió espontáneamente y se convirtió en el eje principal de mis estudios durante los últimos seis años. Hay que subrayar que es un área sumamente difícil para las indagaciones científicas. Dadas las circunstancias políticas, existen núcleos que tratan de influenciar la ciencia y moldearla, según sus propios intereses. Es necesario añadir también que, las investigaciones contemporáneas se desarrollan en base a las redes científicas y grupos de trabajo, lo cual hace que pueden abarcar un ámbito mucho más amplio y rico en conocimiento respecto a un trabajo individual. Así fue en mi caso. Gracias a una amplia colaboración nacional e internacional, que se visibilizó en publicaciones bajo mi edición, pude desarrollar mi propio interés científico por Cuba. Este culmina con el presente libro en el cual se unieron mis raíces polacas con la experiencia cubana y latinoamericanista, surgida a raíz del amor por América Latina que me supo transmitir mi padre, Andrzej Dembicz. El presente libro trata de mostrar la dimensión social y cualitativa de los actuales cambios en Cuba desde una mirada propia centroeuropea, estando convencida que tienen estos un carácter de transformación y que el papel importante en ella juega la población insular. Sus posturas, actuaciones e imaginarios son el área principal del análisis, así como el transcurso de los cambios para poder identificar su vía de desarrollo. Por lo tanto, me enfoqué en los aspectos difíciles a medir e imprevisibles, que crean un estado de incertidumbre entre los investigadores y los propios cubanos. 10 La publicación coincide con la muerte de Fidel Castro, que en muchas partes del Mundo hizo revivir el debate y reflexionar sobre el futuro de la Isla. Dadas las circunstancias de tiempo, el presente trabajo no hará ninguna referencia a este acontecimiento. Aunque seguramente el fallecimiento de Fidel Castro nutrirá los imaginarios colectivos e influenciará en la postura del gobierno cubano, la sociedad insular y los cubanos en diáspora. Tal vez sea necesario ampliar en un siguiente intento investigativo mis análisis, e incluir este factor. Estoy convencida que a pesar de ello, el libro sea de gran interés para los lectores y que encuentren en él elementos poco discutidos y abarcados en los estudios contemporáneos sobre Cuba realizados hasta ahora. Este libro no pudiera ser escrito sin el apoyo de personas muy especiales. Le agradezco a todos mis amigos y colaboradores con los cuales durante todos estos años intercambiamos nuestras observaciones sobre la cambiante realidad cubana, las cuales nutrían mis propias investigaciones. A la editorial Hypermedia por acoger mi estudio y presentarlo a un amplio público. Un especial reconocimiento le doy a mi esposo Óscar Barboza Lizano que, continuamente, apoya mi trabajo y siempre está dispuesto a escuchar mis inquietudes y debatir las ideas. A él y a mi padre dedico esta publicación.
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Since the 1959 revolution, there has been substantial advancement towards women’s equality in Cuba. But the progress is incomplete. Though Marxists argue that this indicates that the revolution’s work is not yet complete, I take a different stance: the fact that the problem is not solved means that a targeted attack on women’s oppression is needed. Cuba has adopted a traditional Marxist or Marxist feminist approach to women’s equality, which helped produce some positive changes for women. However, the limitations of the theory – namely, the ideas that women’s equality should be subsumed to a larger Marxist revolution and that patriarchy is a historically specific situation that would dissolve with the change to a communist mode of production – mean that Cuba cannot adequately address gender inequality. Because Cuban leadership prioritizes the revolution and does not believe that patriarchy needs to be directly attacked, women’s oppression to continues. Even though they acknowledge that the progress is incomplete for women in Cuba, leaders stand by Marxist theory – the only way for the “remnants” of past societies to disappear is to keep the revolution pressing forward. Contrary to the position of the Cuban state, I argue that more revolution alone will not generate full women’s equality. I present evidence in the areas of health, work, and politics that illustrate that patriarchy persists. Rather than dissolving with a change in the material base, Cuba’s patriarchy has evolved into Marxist machismo. Women’s equality cannot be a secondary goal of the Cuban revolution: in order to achieve full equality in Cuba, a women’s movement that directly attacks women’s oppression as women is imperative.
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