Gender strategies under local development projects will be successful only if they focus on improving quality of life, experts feel.
«Women’s training actions will be useless if they cannot put what they learn into practice,» said Aracelys López, a member of the Gabriel Valiente Credit and Service Cooperative (CCS) in Jiguaní (Granma province), over 760 kilometers east of Havana.
«A gender project that has been implemented by OXFAM International has for 10 years helped not only incorporate women into rural work (tobacco cultivation), but also improve housing conditions and water supply,» stressed CCS president Rosendo Armas.
«It was not easy at the beginning. We had to work with their husbands because rural men are really chauvinistic here,» López recalled.
«Local men have changed for the better, but we have to keep on working,» Armas emphasized.
Trinidad Sierra, a human development specialist and gender project manager at the Cuban Association for Animal Production (ACPA) in Granma, told SEMlac that such projects can empower and emancipate women who later decide to leave the countryside for the city or stay. «The latter are often overburdened by household chores and production activities,» she stressed.
«They may experience frustration because, for example, electric cookers are supplied in places where there is no electric power available yet,» she noted.
Studies have shown that rural settlements on the island are still being negatively affected by limited employment opportunities, transportation difficulties, and inadequate waste disposal and educational, healthcare and recreational facilities.
They have been conducted by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), the National Institute of Physical Planning (IPF), and academic institutions like the University of Havana’s Population Study Center (CEDEM).
«Vertical decision-making has also been identified as a major obstacle,» wrote architect Ada Guzón in her book on local development strategies, which was published in 2008.
A new tax on companies and cooperatives came into force in early 2013 to provide financial support to local development projects.
«This law will help improve the Cuban economic model under the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines adopted in 2011 at the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party,» said Meisi Bolaños, deputy-minister of Finance and Prices.
Against this background, researcher Maité Trueba favors the idea of taking up again the experience acquired under the Local Human Development Program (LHDP) that was implemented between 1998 and 2011.
«It identified and made good use of local resources, with community stakeholders leading their own development processes,» she remarked.
«They can effectively complement national policies and programs,» she concluded.