Merck Foundation and 18 Africa’s First Ladies mark International Women’s Day by breaking the stigma around infertile women and empowering girls in education

PUBLISHED: Mon, 08 Mar 2021 12:03:43 GMT

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Merck Foundation (, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany together with 18 African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Communication, and gender, mark International Women’s Day through their “More Than a Mother” campaign that aims to empower infertile and childless women through access to information, education, health and change of mind-set; and through “Educating Linda” program which aims to empower girls through education. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck More Than a Mother explained, “We at Merck Foundation celebrate Women’s Day every day by empowering women and girls through education, information, health, and change of mindset as part of “More than a Mother” campaign. I strongly believe that now is the time to stand for the rights of women and empower them. Happy International Women’s Day to all the women in the world and to the men who support and empower women”. Merck Foundation empowers African childless women, Visit of Rasha Kelej with African First Ladies – “Superwoman” song; Concept creation and executive production by Dr. Rasha Kelej and Merck Foundation production, to empower women across Africa, sang by Cwezi and Adina, two Ghanian singers – “Happy Women’s Day to my lovely sisters and First Ladies of Africa. It is an honor for Merck Foundation to partner with First Ladies of more than 18 countries to lead and execute the initiatives in their respective countries as Merck More Than a Mother Ambassadors. With “More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to break infertility at all levels by raising awareness and supporting girls’ education. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child” added Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej. In many cultures in Africa, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma, and ostracism. The inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in women being greatly isolated, disinherited, or assaulted. This often results in divorce or physical and psychological violence. Merck Foundation has provided specialty training to more than 180 local fertility specialists and embryologists, and more than 150 sexual and reproductive care specialists from 35 countries, with the aim to advance women's health and fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries. Merck Foundation has also trained over 1500 media representatives from 20 countries, to raise community awareness, creating a culture shift, and breaking the stigma around infertility and infertile & childless women. Merck Foundation has also built advocacy in partnership with African First Ladies through their social media with more than 3M followers, launched Media, Fashion, and Film awards; created 20 local songs; children storybooks; and supported many childless women in starting their own small businesses through “Empowering Berna” program.  Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej further added, “I strongly believe that raising strong girls means empowering them for their future as strong women. Through our Educating Linda program, we support young African girls who are unprivileged but brilliant to continue their education, so as to enable them to fulfill their dreams and to reach their full potential”. Studies show that, in areas where there is high poverty and decades of conflict, girls face enormous challenges that limit their ability to get the education they deserve. It has been also seen that many girls drop out of school due to a lack of basic necessities such as fees and uniforms. Merck Foundation is supporting the education of some of the high-performing girls by providing scholarships and grants that can cover school fees, school uniforms, and other essentials including notebooks, pens, and mathematical instruments. Educating Linda program has contributed to the future of 100’s of girls, from countries such as: Ghana, Burundi, Malawi, Niger, and Liberia. Merck Foundation will continue to support young girls from the continent. “Empowering women and girls is the spirit of everything we do at Merck Foundation, and is a part of our DNA!” concluded Dr. Rasha Kelej. Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Merck Foundation.For more images: Join the conversation on our social media platforms below and let your voice be heard: Facebook: Twitter: YouTube: Instagram: Flickr: Website: Download Merck Foundation App: About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign: “Merck More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe, effective and equitable fertility care solutions. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries. With “Merck More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility at all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child. Through this program, Merck Foundation is making history in many African and Asian countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda.  So far, Merck Foundation has trained 180+ fertility specialists & embryologists and enrolled 155+ doctors in one-year Diploma and two-year Master Degree of Sexual and Reproductive Medicine and two-year Master Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction and Embryology from 37 countries. The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are: H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as; ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Africa Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training. Merck Foundation has trained 1400 Media Representatives from 20 countries to raise community awareness, creating a culture shift and breaking stigma around infertility and infertile and childless women ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Film Awards Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it Children storybook, localized for each country About Merck Foundation: The Merck Foundation (, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.  Please visit to read more. To know more, reach out to our social media: Merck Foundation (; Facebook (, Twitter (, Instagram (, YouTube ( and Flicker ( Media filesDownload logo

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