Today in the Mission Yearbook

Presbyterian Commission on the Status of Women delegates meet with Cuban delegation


The Cuban delegation reports that women’s rights there have resulted in economic, scientific and educational advancements

April 23, 2023

On Wednesday, March 8 — International Women’s Day — members of the PC(USA) delegation to the 67th Commission on the Status of Women were hosted by Yuri A. Gala López, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Deputy Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations, at the offices of Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations.

The gathering was coordinated by Sue Rheem, Representative to the United Nations and Director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, to provide space to hear the voices and stories from the Cuban delegation around women’s equality in Cuba.

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long and rich relationship with Cuba. Our witness began in 1890,” Rheem said at the opening of the gathering.

The Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly (2022), is pictured with Ambassador Yuri A. Gala López, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

Gala López welcomed the group and then invited members of the Cuban delegation to share stories on the history of women in Cuba, their contributions to the economic and development of the country, as well as the equality and representation of women in leadership in Cuba. The delegation reported the following impressive statistics:

  • Sixty-six percent of professionals in Cuba are women.
  • The number of Cuban women who hold government office is growing. Currently, 313 of the 605 members in parliament are women.
  • The new process of Cuban elections has resulted in increased female candidates — currently 55% of candidates are women.
  • Women have a large presence in education, health and science. They currently represent 55% of scientists in Cuba.
  • Fifty-five percent of lawyers and 66% of the Supreme Court are women.
  • Wages are equal between men and women.

Despite these statistics, the delegation reports that Cuba has not peaked when it comes to gender equality. “It was born in the revolution and continues,” one delegate said.

Not surprisingly, in Cuba there is access to universal and free education for all. Even though there are efforts to make others believe there is no freedom of religion in Cuba, the delegates assured the group, “this is a lie.”

During the fight against Covid, Cubans worked to develop their own vaccines, foreseeing the challenge of getting vaccines from outside the country because of the trade embargo. Five vaccine candidates were developed in Cuba and three were approved. The protagonists of these vaccines were women; most Cuban citizens were able to be immunized. Scientists have produced other vaccines against hepatitis and cancer, and they are also women.

Ironically, treating their citizens was challenged by the lack of access to medical supplies during the pandemic.

Members of the delegations paused a moment for a group photograph. (Photo by Rich Copley/Presbyterian Mission Agency)

“As we have gathered our efforts in the development in biotechnology, the blockade hinders us from producing them,” one delegate shared. “When we were in the middle of the pandemic and Cuba needed oxygen in the very worst moments, Cuba asked the global community — including the United States — for oxygen to treat their patients. No one answered the call. The obstacle to technology — scientific and economic — is the blockade.”

“The main obstacle for women’s rights in Cuba is the United States [embargo],” said one delegate. “It is a greater form of violence against women.” Despite all these advancements in women’s rights, medical equipment shortages can hamper treatment in Cuban hospitals, where it is a matter of life and death.

Since 1969, the church has addressed U.S.-Cuba relations with a focus on human rights, immigration and regional tensions sprouting from the Cold War. At the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis (2018), the PC(USA) reaffirmed its partnership with the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. In 2016, the 222nd General Assembly approved a policy focusing on the “Nuevo Momento” in the country. This included support for the reclamation of private property lost during the revolution, normalization of diplomatic relations and immigration policies, an end to U.S. attempts to encourage regime change or isolate Cuba, and the return of Guantanamo Bay. Recent polices have also encouraged the U.S. to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and lift all travel restrictions for U.S. citizens visiting Cuba.

Melody K. Smith, Associate Director for Digital and Marketing Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, April 23, 2023, the Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Today’s Focus: #CSW67 – Cuban delegation

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Jon Baxter, Maintenance Specialist, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Glen Bell, Senior Vice President of Development, Presbyterian Foundation

Let us pray

Loving Christ, you have loved and welcomed many people to be your disciples, and you have called us to welcome one another and even strangers. On this day, help us to welcome those you love in your everlasting love. Amen.