International Women's Day is celebrated tomorrow and writing this, as a white woman from a developed nation, I know I have a lot to be grateful for.
The freedom to travel is one of the most precious things a person can hold.
But travelling solo as a woman can come with its bugbears. Unwanted attention from well-meaning — and not-so-well-meaning — male "admirers". Pitying glances when dining alone. Cultural standards opposed to my own beliefs.
Last year, visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I was mildly outraged when the security guard wouldn't allow me inside the grounds unless I covered up. At the time I was wearing ankle-length pants, a shirt with wrist-length sleeves, and a scarf covering my hair. Apparently the millimetre of wrist on display would cause great offence, so I glowered at the guard and reluctantly put on a jumper. It was 30 degrees and while I sweltered in all my layers, various men breezed through the security checks in T-shirts and shorts, with uncovered heads. The double standards were jarring.
Luckily, that's the worst gender-biased travel experience I've had. I know many women can't say the same. But women should travel, wherever and whenever we want, without fear or apprehension. I fully intend to. As writer and activist Susan Sontag is credited as saying: "I haven't been everywhere. But it's on my list."