US First Lady promotes women's rights in Mid-East
U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, in her new role as goodwill ambassador, encouraged Middle East leaders to expand women's participation in society.
"Freedom, especially freedom for women, is more than the absence of oppression. It's the right to speak and vote and worship freely. Human rights require the rights of women," Bush said at a World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan on Saturday.
The three-day forum, which opened Friday, aims at encouraging Middle East leaders to accelerate the pace of reform in the region, both on the economic and political fronts.
Bush said there has been "extraordinary progress" for women in the Middle East and nearby regions.
She said she was delighted that Kuwait extended to women the right to vote last week. Laura Bush insisted that providing literacy skills to women and helping them acquire political and economic access were among the best tools to energise democracies in the region.
"In my country, women didn't secure the right to vote until more than a century after its founding," she said.