Secretary Rice Salutes International Women's Day, March 8

Below is a statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saluting International Women's Day on March 8.

Today, as the world celebrates International Women's Day, I have the honor of welcoming to Washington women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq. These women represent the millions of others back in their homelands who have inspired the international community with their courage, determination, and faith in the force of freedom.

One of the women with us on this day, Nermin Othman, Iraq's Minister of Women's Affairs, told us last year, "The terrorists will not succeed this time. We are determined to win." Minister Othman was exactly right. Women turned out in force to vote in the January elections, and will represent over 30 percent of the new National Assembly.

We believe that democracy must be homegrown and that elections are a critical step toward it. We recognize that despite the success of the recent elections, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq face many challenges ahead. Freedom, the protection of fundamental human rights, economic opportunity and prosperity, equality and the rule of law - these are all elements of the democratic process. Women are integral to the process of building responsible governments and democratic institutions. Women's participation and empowerment at all levels of society will be key to moving these new democracies forward.

As partners in the pursuit of freedom, the United States will continue to support these women as they move toward building peaceful, prosperous and democratic societies. President Bush has said, "Our goal ... is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way." The women of Iraq and Afghanistan are indeed finding their own voices, and they are being heard throughout the world.