President Bush said Tuesday that democracies only reach their potential when women are allowed to fully participate in society, singling out Iran, North Korea and Myanmar as nations that are suppressing women's basic rights.

"America will help women stand up for their freedom, no matter where they live," Bush said at a White House celebration of Women's History Month and International Women's Day.

Bush, joined at the event by women leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan, pointed to several spots around the globe where women are assuming higher profiles.

Liberia recently elected its first woman president — the first woman to lead an African nation — and women head the governments of Germany, Chile and the Philippines, for instance. Bush noted that nearly half of the members of Rwanda's parliament are women and that women hold increasing numbers of parliamentary seats in places such as Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia.

"As women become a part of the democratic process, they help spread freedom and justice and, most importantly of all, hope for a future," Bush said.