The first annual meeting of the Black Sea Women in Nuclear Network took place in Malta between 17-21 October 2022 with the participation of members from the Black Sea region and beyond.

This event became possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (USA), Odesa Center for Nonproliferation, Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University, Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, Malta, Department of International Studies, Faculty of Art, University of Malta, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the support of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).

At the opening ceremony, Neville Aquiline, from the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade in Malta, emphasized the importance of supporting and promoting women in such an essential field, which is timely and noteworthy these days. During opening remarks, the prominent members of the BSWN spoke up about the crucial role of women and the Network: Nataliia Klos, BSWN Coordinator; Margarita Kalinina-Pohl, Director, CBRN Security Program at CNS/MIIS; Polina Sinovets, Director of the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation; and Olga Martin, Program Manager, Global Engagements and Material Security at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who outlined “in diversity, there is strength and beauty. We are here to strengthen the Network and Women in Nuclear.”

Most of the sessions were dedicated to gender equity in the nuclear field: Initiatives Promoting Women in Nuclear, conversations with Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, Best Practices in Advancing and Supporting Women in Nuclear, Tools, and Programs Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Members of the Network and gender champions shared their experiences and gave advice to BSWN members. Representatives of Ukraine also made significant contributions to discussions on nuclear security and new threats and challenges.

Furthermore, during its first annual meeting, the BSWN held its second round of the Black Sea Experts NucTalk, entitled “Impact of War in Ukraine on Regional Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation Regime.”  Four speakers presented their expert views on the timely issue: Dr. Polina Sinovets – Head of the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation, Dr. Tamara Pataraia – Civil Council on Defense and Security, Ali Alkis – a Ph.D. student at Hacettepe University, WINS Ambassador to Turkiye and gender champion at Odesa Center for Nonproliferation and Dr. Natalia Melnyk – Head of the Ukrainian Civil Society Hub. The session was moderated by Dr. Valeriia Gergiieva – a Visiting Fellow at the IFSH at the University of Hamburg and a Research Fellow of the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation.

Recognizing that women disproportionately bear the burden of child care, which leads to difficulties in participating in events and contributes to their underrepresentation as leaders, especially at the highest levels, the BSWN supports and encourages women with children to join and participate in network events.

The BSWN first annual meeting concluded with vibrant discussions about developing strategies for partnerships with other professional networks of women, expanding the network, attracting female professionals and those women who are beginning their careers and need support in the field.