Cuba launches entrepreneurship initiative to empower homemakers during pandemic

HAVANA, Feb. 26  Delbis Utria, who resides in Havana’s Arroyo Naranjo district with her husband and adolescent son,

opened a community-based laundromat after leasing two washing machines from the government.

Like her, dozens of homemakers nationwide have found a job during the COVID-19 pandemic through Espumas, an entrepreneurship initiative supported by the island’s Ministry of Domestic Trade and the Federation of Cuban Women.

The 46-year-old said that under the new legal framework for the private sector on the island, she would like to expand the scope of her business, providing medical centers and the hospitality sector with her services.

“This opportunity has come to my life when I needed it most. My family earnings have improved a lot over the past few months,” she said while putting a red towel in the washing machine.

Among the laundromat regular clients is Omar Camejo, a 55-year-old state employee, who takes his family’s dirty laundry for a weekly cleaning.

“I am a single father taking care of my son. It is difficult for me to do the laundry at home,” he said. “When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, this business will grow quickly.”

Cuba reported on Thursday 670 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, 364 of which were registered in Havana, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the Caribbean nation.

Across the city, in the fishing town of Santa Fe, 36-year-old Daniuska Mercader also became a laundry worker after joining the Espumas project some months ago.

Wearing a homemade facemask, the laundry worker avoided shaking out dirty laundry to reduce the risk of getting infected with the contagious disease given how the novel coronavirus can survive on clothes for some time.

“Now, I spend more time with my kids who are not going to school due to partial lockdown measures in place,” she said while turning a pair of jeans inside out. “I am lucky to have this job.”

According to local authorities, Espumas is aiming to extend services on the periphery of the country’s metropolitan areas and the countryside as well.

“Already, nearly 50 washing machines are operating, but this figure is expected to double by late March,” Marlene Perez, a high-ranking official at the Cuban Ministry of Domestic Trade told Xinhua.

At present, the Cuban government is implementing public policies on gender equality in conformity with the national program for women empowerment, approved by the Council of Ministers in 2020.

Anielka Fernandez del Monte, a senior official at the Federation of Cuban Women, said that female workers play a leading role in different fields of the island’s economic activities.

“With Espumas, we are helping homemakers, retired women, and vulnerable people,” she said. “We strongly believe job creation strategies are fundamental to continuing empowering women nationwide economically.” (Xinhua)