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Hillary Clinton Travels Through Former Soviet Republics

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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AllPolitics, Nov. 12) -- First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spent Wednesday in Kyrgyzstan, where she bore witness to steps in the former Soviet republic's transition from communism to a free-market economy.

Kyrgyzstan is a small nation of 4.5 million on the western border of China. Reminders of its past linger in the capital of Bishkek, where a 50-foot statue of Lenin still towers over its downtown.

Mrs. Clinton met with Kyrgz President Askar Akayev, who has been a champion of market reform.

She also cut the ribbon on the first American University of Kyrgyzstan, established with U.S. funding, and was made its first honorary professor. Mrs. Clinton called the institution "one of the most important results of the alliance between the two countries."

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Yet throughout Central Asia, the transition from communism has not been painless, the American first lady said, especially for women.

"Too many women are the first to lose their jobs and the last to get new ones," said Mrs. Clinton Tuesday at a Central Asian Conference on women in politics at her first stop in Almaty, Kazakhstan. "Too many women are barred by law, by tradition, or by ignorance from exercising their rights. Too many women are trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, unable to get access to education and credit."

Before dedicating the new university, Mrs. Clinton visited the nearby village of Novo Pavlovka. Exploring its market, the first lady met women who had benefited from loans provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to finance small businesses or build homes.

The first lady began the second day of her eight-day trip in Almaty, then travelled on to Bishkek and later went on to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

CNN's Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.

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