Secretary Elaine Chao


Iraqi Women Becoming a Powerful Voice

Sometimes hope can be found in small gestures—particularly ideas or symbols that inspire others to believe that their dreams can become reality. That is what I saw earlier this year when I presented the Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women’s Rights and Democracy in Hilla, Iraq, with a photographic gallery of the eight women whom President Bush appointed to the U.S. Department of Labor, a first in America’s history. The Iraqi women were astonished to learn that women composed half the top officials of a U.S. government agency.

Perhaps it could happen in Iraq, they wondered out loud.

That such a meeting could take place is a testament to the tremendous progress that has been made in Iraq. Hilla, 90 miles south of Baghdad, near the legendary biblical city of Babil, had seen much horror during the days of Saddam Hussein. About 60 percent of the population of this Shiite region are women because Saddam killed so many of the men. A mass grave outside town with the remains of 30,000 people testified to what they had been through.

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