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‘The woman in the house, the man in the street’: young women’s economic empowerment and social norms in Cuba

Research reports

Written by Maria Stavropoulou, Fiona Samuels

Hero image description: A woman giving a pedicure in Havana, Cuba Image credit:Eric Parker/Flickr Image license:CC BY-NC-ND

Since the 1959 revolution, the Cuban state has committed to women’s empowerment and enacted a series of laws and policies to promote women’s equal and active participation in all spheres of life. Sources agree that Cuba has made remarkable progress towards women’s economic empowerment and gender equality, notably thanks to the provision of universal and free education, state employment opportunities, equal pay for equal work, maternity protection, and childcare facilities. However, it is also increasingly acknowledged – by the state itself – that these measures have been unable to bring about full equality and challenge deeply entrenched gendered social norms about women’s and men’s roles in the family and in society.

This report is part of a study that explores the following research questions within the Cuban context:

  1. What is the relationship between sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and social norms?
  2. What is the relationship between women’s economic empowerment and social norms?
  3. What policies and interventions have been implemented to address SRH, women’s economic empowerment and related social norms?

This paper, based on interviews with 71 Cubans, presents findings related to women's economic empowerment in the country, concluding with recommendations that include:

  • Skills training courses for vulnerable and disadvantaged girls and young women
  • Business skills training and access to capital for young women
  • Increased local childcare services
  • Safe and youth-friendly spaces for adolescents
  • Norm change communication interventions
  • Interventions targeting men and boys

companion report presents findings related to family, sexuality, and sexual and reproductive health in Cuba. 

A woman giving a pedicure in Havana, Cuba
Maria Stavropoulou with Ailynn Torres Santana, Fiona Samuels, Valia Solis and Rocío Fernández