President Bush marked International Women's Day with a White House reception where he vowed to continue working for women's rights and democracy in North Korea, Iran and Burma.
First Lady Laura Bush opened the program, saying there are encouraging signs of progress for women around the world, and her husband's administration is helping lead the way.
She said, "I've been privileged to meet thousands of women from many nations, and I believe that women everywhere share the same dreams: to be educated, to live in peace, to enjoy good health, to be prosperous, and to be heard."
In the United States, President Bush said women willing to take the lead have changed American history by campaigning for voting rights and civil rights.
Mr. Bush said, "Our history was altered because strong women stood up and led. These women broke down barriers to equality. We weren't always an equal society in America. And it required strong leadership to help make America a more equal place."
President Bush says empowering women in new democracies will lay foundations of peace for generations to come. Among those attending the White House reception were women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq where Mr. Bush says women have made great strides since U.S. forces toppled the governments there. No longer denied basic rights and brutalized by tyrants, Mr. Bush says those women are now making their own history.
"As women become a part of the democratic process, they help spread freedom and justice and most importantly of all, hope for the future."
He says the United States is continuing to fund training programs for Afghan and Iraqi women while keeping the pressure on societies that still repress women.
"As we work to advance the equality of women in the world's newest democracies, we must remember that many women in other countries around the world are still struggling for basic rights in places like Iran and North Korea and Burma. America will help women stand up for their freedom no matter where they live."
The president says his administration is working with other nations to end sexual exploitation and the human trafficking of women and young girls who often end up in the sex trade.
He says Washington is also fighting the transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus which disproportionately affects women and children.