Empowering Women in Ukraine and Morocco

December 20, 2019

Margarita Kalinina-Pohl
Nataliia Klos
Oum Keltoum Hakam

This fall, CNS experts visited Ukraine and Morocco for events promoting and empowering women in the nuclear sector. The events were organized by several alumni of CNS training programs, demonstrating the sustained, international impact of these programs.

Ukraine Conference

Margarita Kalinina-Pohl and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress took part in a conference, “Promoting Nuclear Security Education and Creating Gender Awareness in Ukraine,” organized by the National Technical University’s Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection of Ukraine (formerly, Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry), and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM). The conference was held at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (KPI) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on October 15–16, 2019.

Group Photo in front of government building

Participants of the conference “Promoting Nuclear Security Education and Creating Gender Awareness in Ukraine,” October 15–16, 2019, Kyiv, Ukraine.

On the opening day of the conference, Dalnoki-Veress delivered a lecture about the effects of nuclear weapons and proliferation challenges by emerging technologies. Kalinina-Pohl contributed to the portion devoted to gender awareness, and helped organize the Women in Nuclear Forum, along with former CNS Visiting Fellows Nataliia Klos from the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection and Sarmite Andersson from SSM, as well as other colleagues from KPI.

One of the conference’s objectives was to promote nuclear security education in Ukraine, in support of a new Master’s Program “Physical Protection, Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials” (also commonly referred to as the Nuclear Security Program), launched at KPI in early September, 2019.

The conference also sought to address and increase awareness of gender equality in the nuclear field and to encourage young women in Ukraine to join the nuclear sector. The Women in Nuclear Forum featured both international and national female experts, who shared their experience and career advice with about 30 young women and men from five leading technical universities in Ukraine. The discussion was based on questions that the organizers had distributed in advance of the forum, and which encouraged the speakers to talk about both challenges and opportunities they encountered as women pursuing careers in the nuclear energy or nuclear security field. Speakers were divided by the sectors they represented, such as government, industry/regulator, university/research institutions, and international organizations.

Some forum speakers used statistics to demonstrate the underrepresentation of women in the field of nuclear security. For example, in her keynote address, Rhonda Evans of the World Institute of Nuclear Security (WINS)—a leading organization in nuclear security professional development and certification—pointed out that women make up only 23 percent of participants in WINS events, and only 19 percent of subject matter experts at these events. WINS’s objective, therefore, is to increase women’s participation in nuclear security in all roles and at all levels.

Julia Strebkova of the KPI Ukrainian Center of Gender Education¬ shared similar statistics, noting that female students in specialties such as “Nuclear Energy” represented around 14 percent. In the new Master’s Program on nuclear security, females represent a quarter of all students enrolled.

Francesca Andrian from the International Atomic Energy Agency provided specific, practical advice on career pathways in the field of nuclear security.

Several speakers shared their personal stories about their career paths, challenges they faced, opportunities to which their choices led, and the people who motivated them. These speakers included Nataliia Klos, a leading nuclear security expert at the Ukrainian Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection, and several former CNS training program alumni: Dr. Polina Sinovets, the founding director of the Odessa Center for Nonproliferation, and Kateryna Pavlova and Margaryta Rayets from the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management. Other women professionals of various ages and levels of seniority from Lithuania, Sweden, Canada, the United States, and Australia also shared their stories. Of a particular interest were stories from women working in the physical protection field, such as comments by the only woman in Ukraine who heads the physical protection department at her research institute, and remarks by a Swedish expert who is a chief security officer at a nuclear fuel and waste management facility.

Participants at the event

The woman-dominated event was a stark contrast to the (all male) photographs of past notable experts that adorned the forum’s walls. Image by Uatom.org.

The forum concluded with a roundtable discussion with students’ participation. One of the topics that caused a lively discussion was whether traditionally “manly” jobs, such as a nuclear power plant operator, can be available to women, especially women of childbearing age. Realizing that some students may be hesitant to participate in the discussion, an online survey in three languages (Ukrainian, Russian, and English) was offered to all participants at the end of the conference. The survey revealed that, for most respondents, it was the first experience of participating in an event focusing on women and gender parity in the nuclear field. Most respondents found this forum very useful and noted that it contributed to their knowledge and understanding of gender equality. Some commented that it opened their eyes and minds and made them actually think about gender equality. The majority of respondents expressed an interest in participating in future events focusing on women and gender-related issues. Many commended forum organizers for encouraging experts to share their personal stories, which helped other women relate to their own experiences. One of the most captivating comments was from a young male participant who wrote: “It became clear to me that the discussion about gender inequality is widely misunderstood by men. While women are trying to have equal rights with men, men perceive this as a threat to their rights. In reality, gender equality is about women having equal rights with men, not taking away men’s rights. I think that we need to involve more men in such discussions to help them understand the concept of gender equality.” Another female respondent spoke to the inspiration of hearing the personal stories, noting that, as a young woman, she felt newly empowered to advance her career in the nuclear sector.

Read more about the conference in Uatom’s report.

Morocco Conference

Another women-centered regional event took place in Morocco on December 2–3, 2019. The conference on “Promoting and Strengthening Women in Nuclear in Africa” was initiated and organized by Professor Oum Keltoum Haham, University of Ibn Tofail in Kenitra, with support of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Group photo standing outside

Participants of the conference on “Promoting and Strengthening Women in Nuclear in Africa,” December 2–3, 2019, Kenitra, Morocco.

The two-day event gathered about 50 women and a few men from over 20 countries, mostly from Africa, and a number of international organizations including Women in Nuclear (WiN) Global and WiN chapters from Egypt and South Africa, World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS), and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 Committee. African participants represented a diverse body of mostly female experts from regulatory bodies, research centers, medical facilities, universities, and other organizations. As the title suggests, the conference’s main objective was to promote women in the nuclear sector in Africa. The conference was opened with welcoming remarks by Professor Mohamed Ebn Touhami, faculty dean of the University of Ibn Tofail and Dr. Khammar Mrabit, director general of the Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security. Other officials from the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Center for Energy and Nuclear Science and Technology, and the National Centre for Radiation Protection were present at the opening session to celebrate the establishment of the WiN Morocco National Chapter. Invited officials recognized the importance and timeliness of this event and thanked Professor Hakam for being a gender champion in Morocco and international fora in promoting women in the nuclear field.

The first day of the conference sought to provide knowledge on different nuclear security and nonproliferation topics, as well as opportunities available to women in the field of nuclear nonproliferation and security. CNS expert Margarita Kalinina-Pohl was among the international and national experts delivering presentations, focusing her remarks on CNS’s efforts to promote women in STEM through capacity-building courses in Ghana, its Visiting Fellows Program—including the CRDF Global Robin Copeland Memorial Fellowship—and the CNS Young Women in Nonproliferation Initiative.

On the second day, during the roundtable discussion on empowering women in nuclear sector, Margarita also shared her experience from the Women in Nuclear Forum in Ukraine and promoted a forthcoming nonproliferation course for women in STEM from North Africa, which will take place in Rabat, Morocco, March 9–13, 2020.

The conference also celebrated the establishment of WiN Africa Steering Committee, chaired by Prof. Hakam from Morocco.

The meeting was widely publicized in the local media, including a video report in French.

Participants gathered around a table.

Read more about the conference.

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