What Is the Point of Sending Four ‘Ice Queens’ to Antarctica?

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A pointless project, a waste of taxpayer’s money.

On Christmas Day, the team members of the All Women Expedition to Antarctica (Aweta) reached the south pole. Their mission was to retrieve a time capsule which was buried in the ice cap in 2004.

This expedition was planned in 2017, when the women, family and community development ministry announced that it would send an all-women expedition to Antarctica. The then minister, Rohani Abdul Karim, said that the aim of the high endurance programme was to empower women from all walks of life.

She said: “We want to put our women to a great test. We want to see how tough they can be and show the world that Malaysian women can do it,” before invitations were sent to those who were interested.

The team would be led by the Malaysian female explorer, Dr Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir, who reached the south pole in 2004 and, a few years later, travelled to the north pole.

At the press conference, in 2017, for this ambitious project, Sharifah said, “It’s a reality programme to find the next me.


“I want to groom my protégé. Youngsters nowadays are looking for a true success story, so instead of just loafing around and engaging in unhealthy activities, we need to maximise their potential.”

After a nationwide search, selected candidates underwent a regimented endurance test to evaluate their mental and physical strengths. Only the top five would make the shortlist. Anyone who was prepared to face the challenge, had to be mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially fit.

The cost was projected at RM4.33 million, but how much did it actually cost? Why was it necessary to visit Antarctica to prove one’s endurance and fortitude? Why had no non-Malay made the final list?

Today, Sharifah will lead three other women – a pharmacist, a civil servant and an Army corporal – to try and locate the time capsule which she had buried in 2004.

Why is it necessary to recover the time capsule which contains a message from the former prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi?

The aim of burying a time capsule, with documents and various objects of the current era, is to enable future generations to study what life was like at an earlier time, once the time capsule is unearthed at some point in the future.

However, Aweta wants to recover the time capsule so soon after it was buried. This defeats the purpose of the time capsule.

Moreover, Sharifah doubted that she would be able to find the time capsule because it may have moved with the ice sheets and drifting snowstorms. So why waste time and valuable resources on this pointless exercise?

Taxpayers’ money is better spent on empowering women in other ways than just training a few women to travel to Antarctica.

When Sharifah said that she was looking for her successor, one wonders if she is on an ego trip.

Earlier this month, the Sultan of Johor expressed anger when he discovered that she was still allegedly using two titles, which he had awarded in 2004, but revoked in 2010. Why did he withdraw the awards?

The original objective of the Aweta expedition is questionable. There are better ways to test women’s endurance than a costly trip to Antarctica, which is one of the Earth’s ultimate travel destinations.

Sharifah’s vanity project to Antarctica is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

The ‘Ice Queens’ should look closer to home, to solve women’s issues. The funds to enable this expensive junket should have been spent more wisely on empowering women at home, through practical and realistic challenges.

Why did the new Pakatan Harapan government not cancel this pointless and wasteful project?

The government is prepared to spend over RM1 million per woman for this frivolous exercise, but single mothers who steal a can of sardines to feed their children can be locked up. – FMT

The views expressed are those of the author Mariam Mokhtar.