President Hamid Karzai (search) appointed Afghanistan's first female provincial governor, an official said Wednesday, a step toward reviving women's rights trampled by the former hardline Taliban government.

Habiba Sarobi (search), a former women's minister, becomes governor of central Bamiyan province, Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal said. "It has been approved by the president's office today," he said.

"Today is a very good day for me," Sarobi said. "It is another important step toward women's rights in Afghanistan."

She said she would meet senior officials in the coming days to discuss when she would take up her post in the heart of the Hindu Kush mountains (search).

Millions of women and girls have returned to work and school since the fall of the Taliban (search) in late 2001. Equality before the law is embedded in a new constitution, and some women have abandoned the head-to-toe public veiling that was mandatory under the tough Islamic regime.

Seats are also reserved for women in the two-chamber parliament to be installed by elections this year.

However, conservative custom still confines most rural women to the home, and health services to alleviate high levels of maternal and infant mortality are being extended only slowly. Karzai has also been criticized for including only three women in his nearly 30-member Cabinet.