MADRID (Reuters) - A Spaniard has won a legal battle to include in her work record the time she spent attending a social programme for women that was created in the Franco era, enabling her to qualify for early retirement after a ruling based on gender equality.

The woman had found herself seven days short of the minimum time spent working to qualify for early retirement because she was unable to include the period spent on the programme created in 1937 to help women learn social and labour skills.

Her request to retire early was turned down by the National Social Security Institute and the decision was upheld by Catalonia's top regional court.

But Spain's Supreme Court overruled that decision on Friday, and said its ruling was based on gender equality - labour law already gave men the right in similar cases to include time spent doing military service or a substitute programme.

The Women's Social Service programme, for women aged from 17 to 35, was established by General General Francisco Franco's fascist organization during the Spanish civil war.

It was not abolished until 1978, five years after Franco died in power, leaving a nationalist legacy that still divides Spain and looms large over its political system.

The programme was not compulsory for women but it was obligatory for those who wanted to work in public administration.

(Reporting by Joan Faus, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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