One half of the world's population is being celebrated today and everyone knows someone being feted. Whether it's a mother, a sister, a wife or a friend, International Women's Day is held to mark the progress that women have made in the past century. For many, the opportunities that lie ahead are just as significant as the milestones that have been achieved. In 1909, when the first women's day was celebrated in the United States, women's suffrage was being hotly contested. Today, while many countries recognise the political right of women to vote, many issues, including equal pay for equal work, maternal health care and human trafficking, persist as problems that overwhelmingly affect the female population.
In the Middle East, domestic violence, uneven economic progress and inequality topped the list of women's concerns in a report published earlier this week. In a study of 18 countries in the region, Freedom House, a research institute in the US, stated that while Middle Eastern women's rights have improved overall - particularly in literacy, labour-force participation and political representation - a long road still lies ahead.
There is no dearth of economic opportunity for women in the UAE. Opportunities for female taxi drivers are just the latest example. As we report today, Abu Dhabi has rolled out a fleet of lavender-coloured cabs that are giving their male counterparts a run for their money. Driven by women for women in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, they are making 50 per cent more money than taxis driven by men - giving the phrase "equal pay for equal work" an entirely new spin. This type of service, which is already popular in other countries such as Kuwait, Mexico and the UK, may prove temporarily useful for women who feel safer with a female driver and for the drivers as well, whose employment may help break barriers in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
While gender-specific cabs may inspire competition between Abu Dhabi's transport providers and entice regular taxi drivers to improve their services to female customers, this should only prove a temporary solution for an age-old problem. As history has proved, separate is rarely equal, even if it's coloured in lavender hues.