Women Preventing Nuclear War

The global theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. This speaks to the core of our mission, as the very founding of Ploughshares Fund by Sally Lilienthal 40 years ago was in itself a bold choice to challenge.

Today, as thousands of nuclear weapons remain in unchecked control by only a few men in power, Ploughshares Fund continues to #ChooseToChallenge – the false assumptions, unfair gender biases, as well as the systematic racism that legitimize and normalize dangerously outdated nuclear weapons policies.


Read the stories below to learn more about the women preventing nuclear war who #ChooseToChallenge and change the national security field.

Let us know how you #ChooseToChallenge. Share your story on social media using #ChooseToChallenge and tag Ploughshares Fund!


Christine Ahn | read more

Christine Ahn is the Founder and Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, reunite families, and ensure women’s leadership in peace building. She has organized peace and humanitarian aid delegations to North and South Korea, and has addressed the US Congress, United Nations, Canadian Parliament, and the Republic of Korea National Commission on Human Rights and the ROK National Assembly.

“The feminist approach to peace and security prioritizes negotiation, cooperation, and the redistribution of resources in order to achieve long-term solutions to conflict. This requires democratizing the peace process.”

Sunny Dooley | read more

Sunny Dooley is a renowned Navajo elder and storyteller, as well as the inaugural recipient of the Estrin Award, a grant named in honor of the late Ploughshares Fund Chair Emeritus. She lives in New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was designed built and tested and where, to this day, more than 500 abandoned uranium mines remain spread across the Navajo Nation uncleaned and unaccounted for.

“It's the first time we really have to ask ourselves the questions that are really difficult to answer. And I think that if anyone really wants to find out about what racism is, look at what we've done to the Earth, look at the most contaminated area within your community. And that's where you begin to start answering the questions.”

Beatrice Fihn | read more

Beatrice Fihn is the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaign coalition that works to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. She has worked to mobilize civil society throughout the development of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which officially entered into force in January 2021.

“One of the things I’m proud of about [ICAN] and the TPNW is that we have always strived to keep diverse voices at the forefront. Diversity brings creativity and often a clear-eyed honesty that doesn’t buy into the BS about nuclear weapons.”

Ambassador Laura Holgate | read more

Ambassador Laura Holgate is Vice President for Materials Risk Management at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She led the design and launch of Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy in November 2018, aimed at increasing the presence, visibility, and impact of women in nonproliferation, nuclear deterrence, nuclear security, disarmament, nuclear energy and other related areas.

“Nuclear policy affects us all. All of these things are global in their effect, and so to suggest that half the population is not present for the conversation makes that conversation illegitimate just from the start.”

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins | read more

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins is an expert on arms control and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. She founded Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS) in 2017, and formerly served as the US Department of State's coordinator for threat reduction programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation in the Obama administration. She was recently nominated to serve as undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs under President Joe Biden.

“If you're really going diversify foreign policy, you have to look at the whole person. You have to look at the whole everything as one effort. And that includes not only promoting the women at the table — it’s also encouraging and maintaining the cadre of women of color, people of color who are in the field to help them stay in the field.”

Cynthia Lazaroff | read more

Cynthia Lazaroff is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and the founder of NuclearWakeUpCall: Earth and Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy. Over the past forty years, Cynthia has been engaged in Track II and 1.5 diplomacy with Russia and the former Soviet Union. She is convening an online mentoring program for women to democratize nuclear policy and build a global movement of women and girls working together to eliminate nuclear weapons.

“I love being a midwife and witness to someone claiming their seat at the table for the first time to change our nuclear story, to transform our nuclear legacy, to work towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. This makes me proud.”

Lovely Umayam | read more

Lovely Umayam is a writer and a nuclear nonproliferation expert. She is the founder of the Bombshelltoe Policy and Arts Collective, a creative organization pushing for an active exploration of arts, culture and history to promote nuclear nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament. Bombshelltoe is the first-prize recipient of the US Department of State’s Innovation in Arms Control Challenge in 2013. Lovely is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Stimson Center.

“In addition to diversifying the field and cultivating a work culture in which people of color can see themselves in positions of leadership and influence, it is vital to accept nuclear history and policy in its entirety, including the experiences of those who already sacrificed and continue to suffer.”


I #ChooseToChallenge. #IWD2021.

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Music in video: "Plug-In City" courtesy of Society of Rockets