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Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)

Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)

The Federation of Cuban Women (Federación de Mujeres Cubanas—FMC) is the official governmental body overseeing women's issues. Founded in 1960 by Fidel Castro and directed by Vilma Espín, the FMC sought to mobilize women following the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Called the "revolution within the revolution," the Cuban women's movement sent women into new regions of the country to teach the illiterate and nurse the ill. Women received professional training in traditional and nontraditional fields, and they were encouraged to participate in militia forces to respond to possible international threats. The FMC has pursued the objective of liberating women through revolutionary political activism, not through gender-based activism. It publishes Mujeres and Muchachas.

The FMC is not an autonomous organization; rather it is one of the popular-based institutions designed to convey government views to the populace and reflect women's needs to the government. This two-way communication was most evident at the FMC national congresses in 1962, 1974, 1980, 1985, and 1995. The FMC directly influenced the 1974 Maternity Law, the 1975 Family Code, the Protection and Hygiene Law, and the Social Security Law. By 1986 the FMC had established 838 child-care centers that supported 96,000 mothers.

Open to all women between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five, the FMC relies on modest membership dues for its financial sources. The group has various organizational levels (national, provincial, municipal, block, delegation, and individual), and its duties and responsibilities entail production, finance and transport, education, social work, ideological orientation, day care, and foreign relations.

The FMC has increased women's presence in the workforce, including managerial positions, and has raised the level of women's education. In 1986 women comprised 35 percent of the workforce and were concentrated in services, education, health, and technology. In 1981 the FMC formed the Commission for Coordinating Women's Employment to oversee what had been an unfavorable implementation of work laws regulating when and where women worked, maternity and hiring practices, and pay scales.

Over 50 percent of university students in Cuba are women. Eighty-five percent of all women have a ninth-grade education. Political ideology is provided at the Fe del Valle Cadre School for selected students, who are expected in turn to propagandize in their communities and work places.

The FMC has formed health brigades to conduct programs such as mother and infant care, environmental hygiene, uterine cancer diagnosis, and health education. It has sponsored a vigorous sex education campaign and promoted birth control.

The FMC has encouraged women to stand for national elections in the municipal, provincial, and national assemblies, and it has gained governmental approval for candidates. Nevertheless, in 1985 women accounted for only 22.6 percent of administrative leaders, including the National Assembly (22.6 percent), provincial (21.4 percent) and municipal (11.5 percent) assemblies, Communist Party members (21.9 percent), and trade union leaders (40.3 percent).

Criticism of the FMC surfaced in the 1990 llamamiento (mass evaluation) of the Revolution. The major complaint concerned the excessive amount of time spent in meetings, work, and voluntary activities, which was made worse by the generalized complications in obtaining food and managing transportation. Also, scarcity of goods has forced many young women into prostitution, which the government has tacitly supported. The FMC's effort to convert women into productive and moral revolutionaries is being undermined by a declining economy.

See alsoEspín de Castro, Vilma; Feminism and Feminist Organizations.


Additional Bibliography

González Pagés, Julio César. En busca de un espacio—historia de mujeres en Cuba. La Habana: Ediciones de Ciencias Sociales, 2003.

Molyneux, Maxine. State, Gender and Institutional Change in Cuba's 'Special Period': The Federación de Mujeres Cubanas. London: Institute of Latin American Studies, 1996.

Randall, Margaret and Judy Janda. Women in Cuba: Twenty Years Later. New York: Smyrna Press, 1981.

Safa, Helen Icken. The Myth of the Male Breadwinner: Women and Industrialization in the Caribbean. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995.

Pérez-Stable, Marifeli. The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Séjourné, Laurette, and Tatiana Coll. La mujer cubana en el quehacer de la historia. México, D.F.: Siglo Veintiuno, 1980.

Shayne, Julie D. The Revolution Question: Feminisms in El Salvador, Chile, and Cuba. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

Smith, Lois M. and Alfred Padula. Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

                              K. Lynn Stoner

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