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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       January 30, 2004


Hilary F. White


U.s. secretary of labor elaine l. chao visits with iraqi women

Al Hilla, Babil Province.  Secretary Elaine L. Chao toured the Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women's Rights on Thursday, January 29.  The Women's Rights Center, part of Iraq's democratization efforts, helps widowed, impoverished, and vulnerable women in Babil Province improve their lives and those of their children. 

In her remarks to the women, Secretary Chao said:
            "Women can do anything."
            "You are fighting for the soul of your country."

The Coalition Provisional Authority and the U. S. Agency for International Development worked with women around Babil Province to open the Women's Rights Center.  It was the first such center since the Liberation of Iraq.  Activities for the income generating Center include:

·       Women and children's nutrition and health classes;
·       Sewing classes and production of clothes to sell in the local market;
·       Cooking classes and work in a catering business that provides food for the Iraqi
                  Boxing Team training for the Olympics;
·       Literacy programs and English classes;
·       Internet café to teach typing, computer skills, internet skills; and
·       Democracy education, constitutionalism, women's rights, and election to local and
                  national office.

Many of the women involved with the Women's Rights Center lost a husband, father, or son to the wars and previous regime atrocities.  Because so many men were killed, women represent more than 60% of the Iraqi population.  These women serve an integral role in the rebuilding of their country, and they desire rights to do this successfully, so they can contribute to a sovereign Iraq.  The women named their Center after Fatima Al-Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. 


The Fatima Al-Zahra Center for Women’s Rights represents another important step for Iraqi women as they work to participate in a free, democratic Iraq.




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