Underpinned by long term credit and trade agreements with USSR, the Cubans had achieved standards of health and literacy rivaling those of developed countries. After his coming to power, Castro had managed to reduce the infant mortality rate, a yardstick of development of development from 60 per thousand live children in 1958 to 13. 2 in 1980. On the eve of the revolution there had been one doctor for 5,000 Cubans, whereas thirty years later there was one per 400. Average life expectancy had risen from 74 to 57 and only 2 percent of the population was illiterate compared to 24 percent in 1958.
All children of primary school age now attended schools whereas only 56 percent had done so before the revolution. The bare figures conceal the extent of social and economic change in Cuba. Castro’s reform aimed to introduce social justice and allow all sectors of society to have equal oppurtunities. Reforms in health, education and the treatment of women and of minorities were implemented among other areas. Some of these reforms clashed with Cuban traditions and culture. Hence, arts played a fundamental role in designing a new Cuban culture in which for instance, the role of women as workers was implemented and promoted.
Castro’s social policies had their main targets as women and education. It evaluated the part played by FMC and the literacy campaign to change the status of women and promote education. One of the most significant changes brought about by the Cuban Revolution has been to the lives and status of women. One of the most significant changes brought about by the Cuban Revolution has been to the lives and status of women. Before 1959 the role of most Cuban women resembled that of other women in the patriarchal societies of Latin America where there existed rigid stereotypes and a division of roles between the sexes in the home and in society.
The undisputed role of a woman was that of wife and homemaker in a family headed by her husband or partner. Women enjoyed few rights and were expected to sacrifice not just their academic potential and broader interests, but also their health and happiness in order to ensure the stability and wellbeing of the family. In cases of maltreatment by men, despite the existence of laws forbidding such treatment, women were given minimal support by the police and the legal establishment. The status of women in Cuba by 1959 was different from that in many latin American countries.
They were only given right to vote in 1934. The 1940 constitution also granted them equality before the law where women could not be discriminated against a work and were to receive equal pay for work. Although women were allowed to vote, study, ad even sue for divorce, pre-revolutionary Cuba remained in many ways a traditional society. Only a few occupations like teaching and nursing were considered to be appropriate for women in the pre-revolutionary years. They were victims of discrimination at work as the jobs with greater pay and responsibility went to men.
Hence in the middle and upper classes, men preferred women to stay at home. The defense to the rights of women at work was largely a response to Cuba’s economic needs. Castro had an aim to achieve modernization and industrialization and to do so women were needed to produce record harvests, woman needed to join the workforce. New legislations were passed reinforcing the equal rights of men and women to access all types of jobs. They were offered training at technical and professional levels. They had entered the fields which were men dominated, such as construction, biotechnology and IT.
In villages the Agrarian reforms had offerd women the opportunity for work in areas like driving and repair of equipment. To facilitate this change and support the women, Castro facilitated the opening of an increasing numbers of daycare centers for working women to help them join the work force. Under Castro, women were expected to work for long hours in the agricultural fields leaving alone their homes and families for long intervals however this most often made conflicts with their husbands. To solve this problem, Castro came up with a new family code which stipulated equality of both the sexes at home and work.
Men were expected to share their household duties and the education of children. Despite this Castro had to admit that the presence of women on work fields was always lower than expected. The policies made by Castro were aimed towards encouraging of equality of women seem to have been focused more towards increasing the workforce than gender equality. More than 600,000 Cubans who were idle migrated from the island in 1960’s and hence to fill up the vacancies, women were brought n picture. They were trained for these works which they had denied before and they also played an important part in education and health campaigns.
Cuba in the Batista’s regime had acess to only limited education that too in varied geographical regions, being more restricted in the rural arean and the ghettos of the poor. Hence it was also limited by economic status. In the years preceding 1959, Cuba had the highest ill-literacy rates in ltin America. It had reached a peak of 24% in children under 10 years. Public education was nil, there was no infrastructure or presence of teachers to provide satisfactory quality of educstion while the acess of university was limited to the privelliged classes.
Castr in the sierra time had promised the resurrection of illiteracy within a year for which he needed to solve two initial barrios, the lack of infrastructure and that of teachers. Castro had declared 1961 as the year of education when the rebel army personally taught the illiterate and had launched the famous slogan “If you don’t know; learn, if you know; teach”. Due to the shortages of school buildings, Castro transformed military barracks into educational complexes and many new schools were built all along the city, focusing in the rural and undeveloped areas.
Between 1959 when Fidel began his policy of school expansion and 1962 more schools had been developed than in the past history of 8 years of Cuba. In the following years, Castro implemented a training programme for 271,000 teachers. To reach all areas, they were sent all across the counry to teach people at their homes. Literate citizens were turned into “literate voulenteers” in free time. Each one was dressed in olive green uniforms and were sent to country sideto teach the peasents. In the year of 1962, illiteracy dropped by 4%.
The success of the campaign was spectacular and as such it increased the hopes in revolution. The aim of the literacy campaign had been twofold. First, it sought to fight illiteracy among the poor ans second, it aimed to make middle-classs youth illiterate youth familiarize themelves with the living conditions and the hardships of the poor, and to act in response to the values of the revolution; self service and sacrifice for the state.