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International Women's Day Celebrated Worldwide

I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Events took place around the world last week to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The March eighth observance came as thousands of delegates from one hundred thirty countries met at the United Nations in New York. They discussed progress on a plan of action for women's equality. The document was approved ten years ago at a conference in Beijing.

It calls for improved health care for women, along with economic and political gains. It also calls for efforts to reduce human rights violations against women.

In Asia last Tuesday, there were demonstrations against unfair treatment of women.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a Conference of Women Leaders. Laura Bush, the president's wife, spoke at the event which had representatives from fifteen Muslim nations. The first lady praised recent political gains for Muslim women.

In Afghanistan, for example, President Hamid Karzai has appointed the first female governor of a province. In Iraq, women hold almost one-third of the seats in the newly elected National Assembly. And Missus Bush noted that nearly half the voters in the Palestinian presidential election were women.

The first lady said the United States joins in protesting the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democracy movement in Burma. Missus Bush added that women in China and Cuba still cannot freely express their political or religious beliefs. And she said human trafficking continues to make women slaves around the world.

International Women’s Day began in nineteen ten in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was designed to build support for voting rights for women worldwide. Missus Bush noted that it took American women many years to be recognized as full citizens with the right to vote.

Last week, just before International Women Day's, hundreds of women and men demonstrated in Kuwait to demand the right for women to vote. The government urged parliament to act quickly to debate such reforms.

Also last Monday, Human Rights Watch released a report on sexual violence by soldiers and members of armed groups in eastern Congo. The New York-based group says tens of thousands of women and young girls have been raped and beaten. Yet it says almost all the crimes have gone without punishment.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I'm Gwen Outen.