On 10-12 January 2018, the Vienna International Center hosted the ACUNS-UN Vienna Conference “Achieving Gender Equality and Female Empowerment: A Collaborative Vision of SDG 5”. The Conference engaged Vienna-based organizations, the diplomatic community, civil society, NGOs, academics, business leaders, and media representatives in discussions about the challenges regarding gender equality and ways to further promote and enhance it. On the last day of the Conference during the panel “Encouraging Women to Excel in Technology Fields”, Nurcan Meral Özel, the Director of the IMS Division, and Daria Shumilova, a member of the CTBTO Youth Group, presented their views on how to encourage greater participation by women and gender equality particularly in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and what role the Youth Group can play in this process.
Women have already brought significant shift on the international arena regarding these issues. In particular, their influence has contributed to the development of a more humanitarian approach towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In recent decades, the dialogue has moved from discussing nuclear weapons only in terms of strategic interests and security to the humanitarian impact of the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear testing, as well as the ethical aspect of nuclear weapons. This connection between women and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation was also recognized in 2010 by the UN General Assembly Resolution 71/56 “Women, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation”. It called upon States to increase women’s participation in security policies and recognized their crucial role in this field.
However, despite the fact that we already have numerous inspiring success stories of women who made their careers in nuclear disarmament, there is still a long way to go. It does take a lot of time and dedication to change the well-rooted stereotype of nuclear weapons as a “male field”. Women who want to work in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation have a lot to contribute; however, they also still tend to be underrepresented in fields such as high-level politics, diplomacy, military affairs, science and technology. So, the question is how can women gain greater influence in these areas?
One of the ways to promote greater participation by women is through international organizations, forums and conferences, and that is where the CTBTO Youth Group comes in. The principal aim of the CTBTO Youth Group is to promote the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) through the voices of the younger generation and to encourage dialogue on all the other issues related to nuclear disarmament. The CTBTO Youth Group is open to young specialists and students from all over the world and promotes participation of both women and men. At the same time, while empowering everyone, it does give girls a particularly good starting point. By promoting gender equality and by engaging young professionals from various countries, the CTBTO Youth Group gives girls the platform for expressing their opinions and sharing their ideas and experiences freely and openly. It is especially important for those young women who might not have the same opportunities in their countries and their communities, where their voices are not strong enough on their own.
Moreover, there is real evidence proving that the CTBTO Youth Group is one of the very good examples of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It was established only two years ago and has already grown to over 300 members with 54 per cent of them being women. The Organization itself is also on its way to closing a gender gap with female representation now standing at over 40 per cent of all the staff. Lassina Zerbo, the Gender Champion himself since 2017, also believes that the CYG reaches out to younger generations of women and brings more of them into nuclear disarmament. The CTBTO Youth Group gives girls an opportunity to be a part of the bigger conversation and to pursue their future careers in their preferred fields. It is through the participation in such entities that we can encourage and promote greater involvement of women and girls in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation which, in turn, will also contribute to global peace and stability.