"I want to take this opportunity to send my regards to you and hope you are all successful in your career and have a happy life," said Hu.
 
In India, a Mumbai-based company launched a new taxi service for women, employing female taxi drivers to make women customers feel safer.
 
Prices of flowers doubled in Vietnam where men presented bouquets to their wives and girlfriends, while activists from different human rights groups marched in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, to mark International Woman's Day.
 
Activists around the world feel there is still a long way to go before equality is achieved.
 
Discrimination
 
In Afghanistan, where two million girls have returned to school since the fall of the Taliban regime, widespread discrimination and domestic violence persist, say experts.
 
The UN Development Fund says at least one out of three Afghan women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused.
 
The UN called for an end to pervasive violence against girls and women during armed conflicts and demanded that perpetrators be punished.
 
"Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of discrimination against women," said Rachel Mayanja, a special adviser to the UN secretary general on gender issues.
 
"It is based on social and cultural practices that hold women and girls as subordinate to men," she said.
 
Meanwhile, in Europe, where gender gaps in employment and education are narrowing, the gap in wages remains around 15 per cent across the 27-nation bloc.
 
Women account for just 32 per cent of managers, 10 per cent of board members and three per cent of the CEOs of large companies, according to EU figures.
 
A Unicef report released last year showed that women still only accounted for under 17 per cent of parliamentarians in the world, while 19 governments have no women ministers at all.
 
Female activists released
 
In Iran, a number of female demonstrators arrested earlier this week were released, but warned not to attend a woman's day protest outside parliament.
 
The women had been arrested on Sunday after gathering in front of a court in Tehran to protest against the prosecution of a number of other female activists arrested in June last year.
 
Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a lawyer for two of the released women, said on Thursday: "Twenty-eight of the detained women activists were released on Thursday."
 
But three of the women arrested on Sunday remain in jail.
 
During the original protest in June 2006, about 200 women demanded equal rights for Iranian women and the nullification of a law allowing Iranian men to have four wives.