Female Candidates for Change: New Pro-Democratic Project in Cuba

Over the course of time, women have played an active role in the emancipation of society and have taken a decisive part in their struggle to free themselves from the traditional and historical yokes imposed on them by the “stronger sex”.

In each period of the history there were women, or groups of females, who expended their best efforts in pursuit of that goal. The Ladies in White movement is the most notable example of the struggle for human and civil rights in Cuba, whose communist government exercises strict State control over peaceful dissident activities of citizens tired of living under the dictatorship, repressing them in order to keep itself in power.

Zelandia Perez. Photo by Yunia Figueredo
Zelandia Perez. Photo by Yunia Figueredo

A truly outstanding initiative in the context of the struggle for restoration of democracy in Cuba carried on by the current Cuban civil society is the effort to put an end to the control of the dictatorship over the elections; that may prove to be the most difficult path to change possible, as there is only one party in the elections and under the electoral law, only proposals supported by the government secure the nomination.

According to the current electoral law, the Cuban citizens can only vote once, electing a delegate for their district or neighbourhood. The electoral system has a pyramid structure consisting of various levels with less and less nominees at each level up to the top where there is only one candidate for presidency of the republic without any rivals.

There are currently several movements in Cuba pursuing the objective of “fighting for change through elections” and a new one has appeared only recently as an extension to the “Candidates for Change” initiative; the only difference is that in this case the initiative is run by women. The name of its instigator is Zelandia Perez from El Vedado, whom I had an opportunity to interview in order to spread the news of the new citizens’ movement. She explains:

“This is the first time we are talking to the media about our project that we have called the ‘Female Candidates for Change’. It consists of a group of women who are going to run for the office of the district ‘delegate’. We believe they can gain votes of other women just for the sake of emancipation and a direct feminine action in the neighbourhoods. One of our objectives is to run as many independent candidates for the election as possible, as well as to raise awareness of the freedom of election among citizens. We believe that female candidates could increase the effectiveness.”

“Why do you think so?”

“It’s because we, women, are more organized than men and there have been moments in history when we proved to be more courageous. There’s no doubt that women have played an important role in the key moments of the development of many societies around the world and Cuba is not going to be an exception. It’s hard work, it’s going to take long, but it’s very necessary.”

“What are the main objectives of your project?”

“In a 1 to 10-year perspective, we would like to manage to build an institutional structure that would facilitate the organization, preparation and nomination of independent candidates to all magistracies in the country, starting from local administration up to the National Assembly. Also, we are going to search for active local pro-democrats and seek to achieve unity between the different currents of the civil society in the face of political transition, using the existing constitutive mechanisms. We are also going to promote and train female citizens who have within them the responsibility to contribute to the establishment of a good government.”

“What is the structure of the project?”

“The structure of the project is designed to ensure distribution and organization of work in a way leading to achievement of the proposed objectives through a combination of efforts coordinated according to the objectives, geographic areas and dates of submission of nominations in individual regions. The essential the structure would be formed by a critical mass of executives ensuring high functionality in line with an efficient use of human resources. This would contribute to a coherent agenda of actions taken by individual members or volunteers in any region of the country. Each region will be assigned to a geographical area in accordance with the distribution determined by the respective executive secretariat.”

“What are your short-term goals?”

“To join our efforts and put aside the fear and the traditional divisiveness that has weakened our pro-democratic struggle. That is the immediate mission of the women who have joined this emerging project, which we are now trying to promote.”

 

To conclude, Zelandia asks us to remember all the great women who have written their names in history and the millions of invisible women who have lived, suffered and died anonymously in the name of different ideologies. In our reminiscences, we should not forget to think of all the women who have never been approached by anybody who would tell them about their human or civil rights, or explain how they could organize themselves to achieve goals as important as those proposed in this new project of the Female Candidates for Change.