Fidel and Vilma (far right) with other compañeros and compañeras, during the founding of the Federation of Cuban Women in the CTC Theater in Havana. Photo: Tirso Martínez

With no restraints on equality, no discriminatory slights. Fully incorporated in all tasks life presents, be they in the workplace, at home, on the public stage, throughout all of society. Dignified and prepared, developing her still limited empowerment without hesitation.

This is the vision of the Cuban woman the Revolution brought, and has been nurturing for the past six decades, more or less successfully, with the efforts of many men and women who put aside their prejudices - if by chance they had them - and attempted to bring others, hopefully all, into the project.

This is the vision of the Cuban woman that came down from the mountains, since from the very beginning it was taken into consideration, since there were more than a few women who embraced the cause of liberation, in every struggle, in every era. It was through the voice of Fidel, after the triumph of the Revolution, that the challenge of gender equality and women's liberation was presented to the nation. He was conscious that women were making "a revolution within the revolution."

Priority was soon given to the problems of women, with the Federation of Cuban Women founded on August 23, 1960. Its first president, Vilma Espín Guillois, dedicated her greatest efforts, from that day forward, to achieving the full social integration of women, so vulnerable at that time.

Instructing, educating, teaching women to chart a future for themselves, leaving behind the vices and disgrace that proliferated prior to 1959, was among the bearded leader and Comandante's first, always visionary, goals. Thus the

Ana Betancourt schools for rural women were born, to rescue from ignorance the thousands of campesinas neglected in the country's most remote settlements.

Also worthy of recollection are the liberatory effects of the Literacy Campaign, which benefited all, male and female alike; and, thanks to Vilma's efforts, the opening of the country's first childcare centers which facilitated women's incorporation, or reincorporation, into the workforce.

Fidel knew, “When our Revolution is judged in future years, one of the questions that will be taken into consideration, in this judgment, will be the way we resolved in our society, in our homeland, the problems of women, although it is one of problems of the Revolution that require the most tenacity, the most firmness, constancy and effort."

This was the case because, in all ambits of society - social, cultural, constitutional and legislative - small and sometimes fiercely-contested battles were unleashed to promote the rights of women. In the Constitution itself, the principle of equality between men and women was established, and condemned was any type of "discrimination for reasons of race, skin color, national origin, religious beliefs, or any other which is injurious to human dignity."

The promulgation of the Family Code is among the guarantees won to benefit women, which has become normal, almost unnoticeable, but which, at the time struck a blow for justice, representing a vanguard step liberating women and establishing their equality before the law.

On the international level, Cuba also took the lead in regards to the rights of women, reflecting the political will of the nation. Cuba was the first country in Latin America to legalize abortion, in 1965, and to sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the second to ratify it.

There remains much to be done in terms of equality and empowerment, to silence, once and for all, outdated prejudices. Nonetheless, the real face of that vision which began to take shape January 1, 1959, has multiplied, and can be seen in a few numbers - among many examples. Women today represent 48% of persons working in the civilian state sector, and 46% of those in leadership positions; 78.5% of all medical professionals; 48% of scientific researchers; 66.8% of the most highly qualified technical and professional workers; 65.2% of university graduates; and 48.86% of our National Assembly of People's Power.

Statistics which support Fidel's conviction that "throughout these difficult years, there has been no economic, social, or political task; no scientific, cultural, or sports achievement; no contribution to the defense of our people and the sovereignty of our homeland, that has not had the invariably enthusiastic, patriotic presence of Cuban women."