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      My Experience as a Woman in Cuban Society

      Stephany Mazuera Vargas was born in Zarzal, Valle de Cauca, Colombia, Stephany was a member of Amigos de Cuba (Cali-Colombia). From 2007, she studied at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, Cuba and the Ernesto Che Guevara faculty in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Beginning in 2014, she worked as an emergency doctor in Colombia and moved to Vancouver in 2017.

      Stephany gave the following remarks at the Vancouver Premier of the renowned documentary: “Cubanas, Mujeres en revolución” as part of the 8th International Che Guevara Conference.

      The documentary was directed by journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker Maria Torrellas and produced by Resumen Latinoamericano. The film evokes the continuous role of women in the Cuban Revolution, both in the guerrilla struggle and in the construction of the new Cuban society, through the testimonies of heroines such as Vilma Espín, Celia Sánchez and Haydée Santamaría, the founding figures of the Revolution, and also of contemporary women from different sectors of Cuban society.

      Stephany Mazuera Vargas Talk

      Those of us who know the Cuban Revolution because we have lived in it, also know that it is a global revolution. When we talk about the battle of ideas, we are referring to everyone: women, men, children, elders, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people.

      We also know that Cuba is a country that works daily to defend its independence amid an economic blockade imposed by the United States since 1962, which is getting tougher and more inhuman.

      Whatever work that needs to be done is performed equally by women and men in Cuba. They are organized in universities with the same opportunities, and later fill job vacancies according to their abilities and achievements. Therefore, it isn't rare to see women holding important positions and roles sometimes in a bigger proportion than men. We saw an example of this in the movie, Marta Ayala Ávila, who is the Deputy Director-General of the Cuban Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB). There are more examples in the scientific sphere, where women have a leading role, as well as in universities and cultural centers.

      During my clinical rotations in different hospitals, I could see the same proportion between women and men nurses, neurosurgeons, gynecologists and other specialties. In many other countries these jobs are stereotypically gendered. Professional Cuban women don’t let anyone limit them because of their gender.

      The fight of revolutionary Cuban women leaders, supported since the beginning by Fidel, has become every Cuban woman’s fight, and it is reflected in the active attitude of the Cuban people. Cuban women know their rights. Many of them taught us as foreign students how to overcome stereotypes and use our education in our favour.

      The Cuban health care system has developed a mother and child program with a comprehensive integrated care plan for pregnant women. I experienced this in my hospital rotation in gynecology. The family doctor and I would visit every house and family examining pregnant women, filling out health reports, and updating registration sheets that are later compiled by the doctor’s office, polyclinics and by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) [neighborhood councils across Cuba].

      Hospital care is organized in such a way that risk of chronic diseases during pregnancy is caught early and women are hospitalized before delivery. If they fail to show up at the hospital, the CDR is responsible for contacting them.

      I believe that CDRs are an idea that has been maintained because they work. These are networks that have such an exact and precise organization that each one knows how many families, citizens, elders, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and patients with sexually transmitted diseases there are, guaranteeing an equal treatment with individualized attention to everyone in need.

      The role of women in the fight for an equal society has been propelled in Cuba because the revolution has always prioritize educating people, the level of culture is high, and if you have ever traveled to Cuba and had a conversation with an average citizen, you know this.

      Contrary to what many people think, or are made to think, the island is not isolated from the rest of the world. Access to information exists and people, despite the economic blockade, have a realistic and critical vision of what's happening. They know that they are still facing many problems and the majority of people are willing to participate to solve them.

      With the penetration of Western Culture from tourism and foreign students, there are many new influences, like many musical genres, that although they are liked by some of the youth, they don’t help in the fight against the objectification and sexualization of women in a traditionally macho country such as Cuba.

      But, let me emphasize the actions of Cuban youth towards progress. While in Camagüey, Cuba I had the opportunity to meet a dental technician and her daughter who’s a high school student. She would explain to me for long hours about the work of the Union of Young Communists of Cuba (UJC) and their participation in the fight against machismo and for the recovery of many ethical values that have been lost. As commander Fidel once said, "without ethical values there are no revolutionary values".

      Women of the UJC are committed to the socialist ideal of humanity and dignity for all. All these principles stayed with me, and I know that it also touched a many of the other doctors that have graduated from Cuba as well.

      Those ideas of a revolution that are human and in solidarity with humanity are part of all the doctors that were formed in Cuba. We are part of the army of white coats, therefore we also stand in the fight, either as a doctor giving the patient attention and a dignified human treatment, or as fighters in other fields in which we are needed to defend the Cuban revolution, that is also our revolution.

      A part of me stayed on the island and I keep with me more than my doctor’s degree - a unique human training for which I will be eternally grateful.

      Thank you, Fidel, thank you to the Cuban Revolution, thank you to the Cuban people.

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