The Fairer Sex Conquers the Poles

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Gender Equality: a Global Issue

Within the framework of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, comprised of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is SDG5,which refers to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. It is in response this SDG and to the international community’s definition of the achievement of the SDG5 as « a necessary condition to ensuring a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous world », that the NGO, Le Cercle Polaire (LCP), has launched the campaign « Women to the Poles ».


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The 17 Sustainable Development Goals - © United Nations

Gender Equality: A Major National Cause for France

In France, gender equality was publicly recognized by President Emmanuel Macron as a major national cause on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November 2017. In response, France has adopted the following priority actions : education and the cultural struggle in favor of equality between women and men; support for victims of violence; the strengthening of penalties in response to inequality and violence; and equality in the workplace.
We must acknowledge that attaining gender equality requires radically different approaches, depending on the cultural context and country. The major issues concerning an Afghan, European or Greenlandic woman are as different as the cultures themselves. The French government, working within the framework of SDG5, has declared as its priority "Zero income inequality between women and men for equal working hours and positions", whereas, in Afghanistan, it is equal access to education for girls and women, which currently constitutes the major challenge to inequality.

The Polar Expedition, the Last Bastion of Sexism

The history of exploration and discovery of the polar zones is marked by predominantly male figures, apart from a rare few females (Jeanne Baret, Léonie d'Aunet, Louise Boyd, etc.), to an extent that we could consider polar expedition as a bastion of sexism or misogyny. In more recent decades, with the "Eight Women for One Pole" expedition led in 1986 by the French glaciologist Madeline Griselin, and the 8 woman Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition in 2009, led by the British Felicity Aston, women's polar expeditions have become both a symbol and a communication tool in the struggle for gender equality. It is this aspect, with respect to SDG5, that the Cercle Polaire would like to highlight, which is by no means meant to overshadow the multitude of motivations and challenges of the whole of polar exploration.

1986 : Eight women for one Pole. The first polar women's expedition led by the french scientist Madeleine Griselin to the North Pole.

Expedition Kaspersky 
2009 : Women's expedition « Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic » to the South Pole with seven women from Commonwealth nations (Brunei Darussalam, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore) led by the british explorer Felicity Ashton.

Expedition euro arable 
2018 : Women's expedition to the North Pole comprised of European and Middle East figures (Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Koweit, Oman) led by the Bristish explorer Felicity Ashton.

The International Campaign “Women to the Poles”

The « Women to the Poles » campaign led by Le Cercle Polaire brings together 50 polar women adventurers, explorers, scientists and photographers from around the globe presenting the singular story of each woman’s accomplishments and the spirit brought to each. These personal first-hand accounts will be published on a Facebook page linked to the Cercle Polaire website, with a printable booklet grouping the photos and their stories offered for download.

Event in Paris “Women to the Poles”

This October 2023, an event will be held in Paris to display and celebrate the "Women to the Poles" campaign, with the presence of several featured female figures and a senior representative of the Ministry of Equality of Women and Men (to be confirmed ).

Theme Cruises in Partnership with the company Ponant

In partnership with the Cercle Polaire association, the Ponant company offers several “Women to the Poles” cruises with polar adventurers and a member of the Cercle Polaire association on board. Emblematic of Ponant’s commitment to meaningful travel, these theme cruises are part of the partnership launched in 2009 with the Cercle Polaire association. “The commitment and personal experiences of our Polar ambassadors offer us a glimpse into what makes a journey of a lifetime” (Hervé Gastinel, President of Ponant, 2023).

The Patronage of the Minister for Gender Equality

The "Women to the Poles" campaign is sponsored by Ms Isabelle Lonvis-Rome, Minister for Gender Equality for Women and Men, Diversity and Equal Opportunity.
The Minister has generously written the preface to the collection of personal first-hand accounts from “50 Women to Poles”.

In August 2023, a Ponant thematic cruise to Greenland « Women to the Poles » will welcome aboard Reena DHARMSHAKTU, the first Indian woman to ski from coast of Antarctica to South Pole covering a distance of 900 kilometers.


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