What We Did and Learnt at the Women Playing a Role in Global Security: Intensive Course on Nulcear Nonproliferation and Security for Women in STEM

The programme took place in Accra, Ghana, from February 11-15, 2019


I was a participant at the course, which was organized by the African Center for Science and International Security (AFRICSIS) in partnership with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA. It is another first time in another African Country. Accra was hot and humid, much like the Lagos, Nigeria weather. The check through passport control was smooth and quick and the luggage didn’t take too long to arrive. There was a hotel shuttle waiting to convey me to the Accra City Hotel.


The course, intended for a cross-disciplinary audience is more focused on the understanding of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament and the policy and diplomacy of treaties across and among countries to encourage disengagement of nuclear use in war and encourage the peaceful use of nuclear for humanity. Accordingly, the course does not necessarily require nuclear experts, although a technical background of physics, radiology and radiation safety is useful. The course therefore included experts in the field of oncology, medical doctors in the field of radiology, nuclear regulatory officers, radiation protection experts and university lecturers in physics such as me who work in the interface of educating young girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field.


The five day intensive course provided the participants with opportunities for understanding critical issues of nonproliferation, arms control, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, nuclear security and safety and new tools for monitoring nuclear proliferation in nuclear weapon states and discouragement of proliferation in non nuclear weapon states.

The course participants were widely diverse. There were about 30 participants from 14 African countries: Malawi, Kenya, Cameroun, South Africa, Tanzania, DR Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and two facilitators/resource persons from Burkina Faso and Togo in the persons of Honorine Bonkoungou and Yabouri Anselme.

There were five participants from Nigeria, which included myself; Bayero University, Kano, Nneka Elizabeth Edward, Senior Scientific Officer, Center for Nuclear Energy Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, Hauwa’u Kulu Shu’aibu, Department of Physics, Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna, Olaide Temitope Abiona, Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Abuja and Echeche Onuh, Department of Physics, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Nigerian participants: Standing L-R, Hauwa’u Kulu Shuaibu, Olaide Temitope Abiona, Rabia Salihu Sa’id.
Squating L-R: Echeche Onuh, Nneka Elizabeth Edward

The welcome dinner took place on the 10 February. The welcome address was given jointly by Dr. Hubert K. Foy; Director, AFRICSIS and Elena Sokova; Deputy Director, CNS and keynote address by Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins; founder of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS).

During the welcome dinner, there was JOLLOF RICE on the menu and we had a hearty and lively discussion with our Ghanaian hosts on whose Jollof rice tasted better!


The opening of the course coincided with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science; celebrated globally on the 11 February. This session took place at the British Council, Accra, Ghana.

Day 1 at the British Council Accra office, waiting to start and getting to know each other

Elena Sokova congratulated participants for the achievements of women and girls in science and noted that the course starting on this auspicious day is indeed poignant. Other facilitators enjoined participants to be resilient in ensuring that they play their parts in ensuring that the world is safe from nuclear threats and that nuclear is used for peaceful means such as in medicine to curb the menace of breast and cervical cancer, which devastates women the world over.

Participants benefitted from a wealth of knowledge from facilitators like: Hubert Foy who spoke on peaceful uses of nuclear weapons, effects of nuclear weapons and minimization efforts of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) in Africa with particular reference to Ghana and Nigeria. Elena Sokova spoke on international nuclear security regime, Laura Rockwood; Executive Director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and nonproliferation spoke on IAEA and International safeguards. Other facilitators were: Jean DU Preez of the CNS who took us through the treaty on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Tammy Taylor, Director International Data Center of the Comprehensive Test ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Participants also benefitted from the topics such as Biological and chemical weapons nonproliferation by Bonnie Jenkins, Safeguards by Hannah Hale, Nuclear and Missile programs of DPRK by Anne Pellegrino, Nuclear and radiological security in sub-Saharan Africa by Amanda Pourciau from the United States Department of Energy/National Security Administration, security of radioactive sources by Margarita Kalilnina-Pohl in addition to her smooth coordination of events. Anselme Yabouri of the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament (UNREC), Lome, Togo, weighed in with his wealth of experience on the UN disarmament machinery with the First Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN in New York; Honorine Bonkoungou adding her experience and knowledge of the the United Nations disarmament machinery.

Intensive Course on nuclear nonproliferation for women in STEM in Africa, 11-16 Feb. 2019, Accra, Ghana: Group photograph of participants and facilitators

The outlined topics took place within the first three days of the course and included a panel discussion on the third day featuring Bonnie Jenkins, Honorine Bonkoungou, Jean DU Preez. The first and second day of the course took place at the British Council offices in Accra, while the rest of the events took place at the Accra City Hotel.


The fourth day of the intensive course was the 14th of February, which was another celebratory day; Valentine Day! So we went on a tour of the city. We visited the Kwameh Nkrumah Museum, Ghana Atomic Energy Agency and the Parliament of Ghana. When we returned to the hotel in the evening, we ended the day with a dinner and chocolate night!

At the Kwameh Nkrumah Memorial, Ruth from Uganda, Princess from South Africa and Eunice from Cameroun

Visit to Ghana Parliament

Highlights of day 5 was the round table discussion on women in nuclear: opportunities and challenges. The discussion was moderated by Elena Sokova and the panel consisted of Dr. Kwaku Aning, Director of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, Honorine Bonkoungou and Professor Oum Keltoum Hakam; an award winning nuclear specialist and professor at the Department of Physics, University of Ibn Tofail in Kenitra, Morocco.

The panel discussion was a lively one that saw women experts sharing their successes, challenges and triumph with strong encouragement from Dr. Kwaku Aning, a male champion of women causes.
The course ended on the 5th day, 15th February with a closing ceremony and award of certificates and a final closing dinner.

Closing Dinner: It was a Friday and we all dressed in traditional African attire including our American facilitators.


We had a chance to visit the market on the Saturday 16th day before our departure. Thanks to our Proudly Ghanaian friend Abigail Naa Momoede Quaye, one of the participants and Physicist at the Oncology Department at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana who spared time and took us around market. Nigerian participants had their flights rescheduled because all flights from Accra to Lagos and Abuja were cancelled due to the elections in Nigeria, which were later cancelled. I was able to still travel on the Saturday but my fellow Nigerian participants had to wait until the next day.

All is well that ends well. The course was highly educative and many collaborations and network have been fostered. Our advocacy work and diplomacy in the field of enlightening women and girls and the general community on nuclear security has been enriched and can only continue to wax stronger.

Accra fabric market with Prof. Oum Keltoum Hakam


According to the organizers, the course was sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation of New York and The John D. and Catherine T. MacAthur Foundation. We, the participants join the organizers in thanking them. I am deeply grateful to AFRICSIS and CNS for approving my application and inviting me to participate in the course.

Our facilitators, great ladies: L-R Margarita Kalinina-Pohl, Prof. Oum Keltoum Hakam, Anne Pellegrino, Laura Rockwood, Amb. Bonnie Jenkins, Elena Sokova, Honorine Bonkoungou


  1. I am always impressed by your activities and think that you are a real inspiration to women all over the world, not just in Africa.

  2. The Carnegie Foundation and MacAthur Foundation are doing so many good things in the world. Bravo, and more grease to your elbow.

    1. Yes indeed. We wish them many more services to humanity

  3. May your soar higher than you aspire to be prof.


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