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Cuba’s strides in gender equality cited but threats remain

HAVANA — Cuba has made great strides in gender equality, but still has work to do in eradicating macho attitudes and supporting opportunities for women in business and leadership, according to a report from a US study group published to coincide with International Women’s Day on Friday.

The Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas also warned that the island’s economic difficulties and drive to restructure its socialist model could threaten the advances in gender equality since the Cuban Revolution.

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‘‘Just like everywhere, in times of economic crisis it’s women and families and kids that are often the most vulnerable,’’ Sarah Stephens, the group’s executive director, said Thursday.

President Raul Castro’s economic reform plan includes massive reductions in state jobs, with those workers to be absorbed by an expanded private sector that has grown to 181 approved trades.

But the center report noted that many of those are male-dominated professions and to date, 24 percent of small businesses are run by women.

Moreover, there is no provision for women in the private sector to maintain rights they enjoy in government jobs, such as paid maternity leave.

The center recommended that Cuba implement measures to support women as independent workers and small business owners, such as offering training in finance and marketing, improving access to credit, and providing day care.

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