AfriNuke is the AYGN he triannual bulletin which aims to provide a platform to highlight the activities of the organization while capturing some events in the nuclear industry. The first issue was release in 2019. African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN) Communication Committee is glad to release the FIRST ever issue of AfriNuke Bulletin. The newsletter wouldn’t be possible without the contribution and dedication of leadership, national chapters, members and stakeholders. AfriNuke has recently launched a special section dedicated to profile young and old professionals in the nuclear industry.
If you have that story you would like us to publish or a professional you want us to interview, please feel free to contact the editor.
Chief Editor: Ms Princess Mthombeni
WhatsApp: +27 28 384 2144
Up Close and Personal
Up Close and Personal with Ms Tebogo Motlhabane, Women in Nuclear South Africa (WiNSA) President
Women’s Day is celebrated in South Africa on August 9 each year. It is a time when the country reflects on past struggles and accomplishments, calls for change and recognizes acts of courage and determination by women who have made significant contributions to society. This year’s celebration , under the international theme, is, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. Thisis a call-to-action for driving gender-balance, raise awareness to challenge stereotypes that limit women and girls, take action for equality and celebrate women’s achievements.
AFRINUKE Editor caught up with newly elected President of Women in Nuclear South Africa (WiNSA), Tebogo Motlhabane to find out more about her calling and plans for the organization. In this inspiring interview, Tebogo shared with us her rich experience, intimate thoughts and deep vision regarding the present and future of women in nuclear technology and science sector, women empowerment and gender inequality among others.
Read how she has become a success story today despite the many barriers she faced as a young black lady in the male dominated industry.
So President, Congratulations! How are you feeling and what do you hope to be able to bring as you embark on this role?
I think the title of this position sounds overwhelming. Since I have been entrusted with the responsibility, I am ready to serve. I hope that together with the new executive members, we will re-build WiNSA in order to increase participation of women and their visibility in the industry. I am looking forward to an inclusive WINSA that will take into consideration, all skills and needs of its members by facilitating and organizing workshops/seminars that will benefit all women in the industry including those without a technical background. We need to support women and increase their participation in the nuclear supply chain, encourage them to understand business opportunities and regulatory requirements that are available within the industry. As women, we must participate and have a voice in the development of governance framework such as policies, legislations etc. that have impact on us. For example, the discussion paper on decommissioning policy and the draft regulations on long-term operation of nuclear installation. I am hopeful that WINSA will be able to assist its members to achieve career growth through mentorship programs where those with experience in leadership positions will carry others under their wings. Outreach programs have always been an integral part of WINSA strategy and I hope that I will be able to encourage members to continue with this great aspect of educating the public and learners about the benefits nuclear industry while demystifying it.
You have what many would refer to as a very successful career. Can you tell us a bit about your professional background? I know that you have plenty of experience since you were the chairperson of the Women in Nuclear – National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI) Chapter – how do you think this experience will help as you move forward to your new role as the WiNSA President?
I have a Masters of Science in Applied Radiation Science and Technology (M.Sc. (ARST)) and I am registered with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions as a Professional Natural Scientist. I started my career at the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) as an intern and later on, I went back as an inspector in the NORM division. I have also worked for Department of Minerals and Energy, Malepa Holdings, AngloGold Ashanti, the International Atomic Energy Agency. Currently, I work for the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI). Furthermore, I have largely worked as a Radiation Protection Professional in both the operator and regulatory space.
In my experience as the NRWDI chairperson, I have seen how women can work together for a common goal. Often, we did not have a specified budget but we managed to identify opportunities to piggyback on in order to achieve our objectives. Keeping the leadership of the organization in the loop also worked in our favour. They realized the value WiNSA is bringing and therefore provided an appropriate support. For example, members are afforded time-off from work when they have to attend to outreach programmes. This benefits NRWDI in terms of improving the image of the organization. Moreover, I learnt the power of lobbying for our good causes. For example, we managed to nominate and get one of our members elected into the South African Radiation Protection Association (SARPA) committee. In addition, NRWDI is represented by women at the South African Young Nuclear Professionals Society (SAYNPS). Finally, I have benefited from being open minded to suggestions from members and encouraging them to volunteer in roles they are passionate about. In that way, it becomes easier to get things done because when people feel valued, they get motivated to do even more. Most importantly, I believe in having a plan. I hope to bring this to WINSA.
You work for NRWDI, which is an institution that manages South Africa’s radioactive waste generated through the use of nuclear energy. There are many views and concerns expressed by the public and other interested groups in relation to the nuclear industry and in particular its waste. Whether or not the nuclear industry has a solution to the ‘waste problem’ is one of the mostly commonly expressed concern. What is your take on this?
Since the inception of nuclear energy in South Arica, low level and intermediate waste has been disposed of at Vaalputs. With regards to the high-level waste, that is currently stored at operator/generator’ sites and Government has promulgated the Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act in 2008 (Act 53 of 2008). This Act establishes the Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI) and mandates it to manage disposal of radioactive waste in the country. I do not think that radioactive waste is a problem at this current moment as NRWDI is mandated to design and implement disposal solutions for all classes of radioactive waste, especially high-level waste. NRWDI is currently looking into establishing the Central Interim Storage Facility at Vaalputs for long-term storage of high-level waste. A solution must be sought for final disposal of high-level waste and the Institute is conducting research on the deep geological repository.
What barriers have you faced as a woman, in becoming successful professional in the nuclear field and how did you overcome them?
In my opinion, just because a person works with men, the tendency is to want to blend in with them and thereby hiding the strength that comes with being a woman which is her emotions. I worked with men who excluded me from their circles simply because I am a woman. Hard work and knowing my potential helped me a lot so, I did not expect favours from anyone because I knew that those come at a price. As a woman, you are often forced to assert yourself better and know your story in order to be taken serious. For me specifically, since I did not breakdown while in the mines, I can survive just about anything.
How do you envisage the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”?
For a long time we have spoken about equality between men and women and unfortunately, it is now 2020 and we are still searching for that equality because women and men are not treated equally. I think women need to realize that equality does not necessarily mean being like men, instead, it means using our female strengths to achieve the things we are entitled to.
We need to work toward moving away from situations such as; “the first woman to do this”, or “the only woman in the boardroom”. It should be normal to have women working everywhere and being catered to their rights in that field in her whole female form. I think it is up to us as women to back each other and advocate for our causes. No one will give that to us on a silver platter.
As South Africa celebrates Women’s month, what is the most important piece of advice you have for young women seeking to pursue a career in nuclear?
Often women second guess themselves and diminish their abilities. Look for information in whatever you want to do, focus and go for it. Do not be afraid to dream big and go for what you want to achieve. WINSA strives to ensure that young women are mentored to reach their potential so it is possible to be successful in the nuclear industry, come in and be a game changer.