The first webinar of Women in Nuclear Kazakhstan

Poster for the first webinar of WiN KZ

prepared by Nuriya Azamatova, intern at the Peaceworkshop Mutlangen, 

member of WiN Kazakhstan and CTBTO Youth Group (Ban of Nuclear Tests) and 

Youth Peace Week organiser in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

24th June 2020 — the webinar organized by Women in Nuclear Kazakhstan took place on a sunny day in Nur-Sultan. The weather suited the webinar perfectly: amazing speakers shared their experience and thoughts on topics concerning women’s involvement in the nuclear field. No wonder why the sky was crystalline-like clear — it was made so for these astonishing women to shine! 

The first speaker, Dr. Togzhan Kassenova, Senior Fellow at Center for Policy Research, SUNY-Albany, brought up several lessons she was taught during her way up to the career ladder. “Initial circumstances matter”—says Togzhan, implying uneven conditions under which Kazakhstani women try to make their careers — “but it is possible to breakthrough”. Being a representative of a minority group, she also stresses the value of self-worth. “Determine your own worth. Nobody can take your worth away.”

Our second speaker, Melina Belinco works as Vice President at Women in Nuclear Global (WiN Global). No wonder that, as an outstanding professional, Melina chose to speak about WiN Global in general, its mission and goals. One of the aims of WiN Global is to promote interest in nuclear engineering, science and other nuclear-related professions, especially among women and young people.

We strongly agree with the idea behind this —  promoting the fields mentioned above is essential to provide global security, not to mention that the mission of the WiN Global is directed towards eliminating gender and age segregation in the field of nuclear, which is the key to the equality and diversity in the nuclear field.

Gaukhar Makhatzhanova, Director of International Organizations and Non-Proliferation Program (IONP), introduced her story of entering the field of nuclear with follow-up statistics depicting the modern status-quo on gender equality in specific areas. In fact, with only around 30-40% of women presented, the UN Committee of Security & Disarmament remains the most stereotyped. “Security field handles the “hard” issues, hence it is the work for men” — Gaukhar shares common belief. Despite the stereotypes along the way, Gaukhar expresses the willingness of women to be actively engaged with the questions of global security, as in many ways horrific events of the past affected women the most. As for Kazakhstan, specifically much effort has to be made. “As you go up the ladder, the fewer women you see” — that is to emphasize the value of women empowerment not only in the field of security & disarmament but every other one as well.

The fourth speaker Natalia Zhurina shared the story of fulfilling her dream: contributing to nuclear proliferation while using Spanish in daily matters. On the way to her dream, she learned a few lessons. “Never give up. Try again” — that is what was written on the slides whereas Natalia was speaking about failures she experienced. The other thing was to be always kind — “Communicate with people the way you want them to communicate with you”. In the very end, the astonishing qualities she possessed has led her to the current position of Research and Education officer at OPANAL, which is the dream job of Natalia Zhurina.

The last speaker Sarah Bidgood spoke about career options for women, especially in the nuclear field. Being a Director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, she focused on the ways of finding opportunities for all women, specifically in the nuclear field. Acknowledging the very nature of human beings, Sarah concluded the webinar with the powerful words “Diversity contributes to the outcomes”. That’s by far summarizes the aim of the webinar and Women in Nuclear Kazakhstan itself.

All of us — from speakers and organizers of the webinars to the very guests — aim for the diversity. Empowering women is a key element of reaching diversity — more women involved means higher quality and quantity of human resources available. Specifically for the field of nuclear, the more women involved, the sooner the peace is established, the clearer and brighter the sky is above our heads.

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