From left: Alia Al Khafajy, Anna Ayoub, Oshba Mubarak, Khadijah Al Muttawa and Yasmin Al Juwadri at a press conference announcing their participation in the 2041 International Antarctica Expedition to promote environmental awareness. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Five Emirati women going on an expedition to Antarctica next month want to use their trip to change misconceptions and stereotypes about women in the region.

"We would like to show the world that UAE women can do whatever their counterparts in the rest of the world are able to do," Khadijah Al Muttawa, an anti-money laundering officer with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), told Gulf News yesterday.

"We would like to break the misconception or stereotype about Arab and Muslim women — that they are not free to work towards achieving their personal ambitions or goals," she said.

Khadijah and four colleagues — Alia Al Khafajy, Anna Ayoub, Oshba Mubarak and Yasmin Al Juwadri — will join the expedition titled 2041 International Antarctica Expedition from February 27 to March 12 this year.

The five women are being sponsored by their employer, NBAD, for the expedition, which will be led by polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan.

Highlighting protection

The 2041 International Antarctica Expedition aims to highlight the effects of global warming and ensure the continued protection of Antarctica from mining and exploitation beyond 2041, when current international agreements over the continent end.

Ehab Anis Hassan, NBAD's group chief human resources officer, said the bank is pleased to participate in the expedition with its five-member team.

NBAD's objective is to empower and encourage Emirati women who are eager to participate in global civic activities as the nation's ambassadors, he said, adding that the five explorers were selected through a competitive application process.

Throughout the expedition, participants will see and learn about Antarctic wildlife, live a sustainable lifestyle and learn about the importance of preserving natural resources and the role of renewable energy in balancing the ecosystem. In addition, the expedition is designed to develop participants' inter-personal and leadership skills.

The five UAE women will first travel to Ushuaia in Terra Del Fuego, southern Argentina, along with 65 fellow explorers, where they will be trained for their expedition. Preparations will include activities such as trekking and hiking.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Alia, an associate banker. Anna, a branch manager, said the expedition would help her "break away from material life, hear my hear beat [and] reconnect with nature".

The women have all been found fit for the trip after medical tests and have received training in presentation skills, media, sustainability and team building.

— With additional inputs from Nada Al Taher, Staff Reporter