Africa: Merck Foundation CEO, Africa’s First Ladies Mark International Women’s Day 2024

Merck Foundation marked International Women Day 2024 through their “More Than a Mother” programme which was launched in 2016 to empower women living with infertility through access to information, health and change of mind-set.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, together with Africa’s First Ladies, who are their Ambassadors, celebrated “International Women’s Day 2024,” through their historic campaign “More Than a Mother.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of “More Than a Mother”, stated, “Happy International Women’s Day to all the women in the world and to the men who support and empower them.

Dr Kelej added: “We at Merck Foundation, together with First Ladies of Africa, mark Women’s Day every day through our “More Than a Mother” campaign, which is a strong and unique movement that aims to empower women living with infertility stigma through access to information, education, change of mind-set, and economic empowerment.”

Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” is a powerful campaign that defines interventions to build quality and equitable Reproductive and Fertility Care Capacity, Break Infertility, Stigma and Raise Awareness about Infertility Prevention and Male Infertility.

“I am happy that we at the Merck Foundation are contributing to building and advancing fertility care capacity in Africa and Asia, to support childless women and couples. I am very proud to share that we have provided till today more than 545 scholarships of Embryology, Fertility and Reproductive care to young doctors from 39 different countries.

“Many of our Alumni are trained to be the first local experts in their countries, where they never used to have local embryologists or fertility specialists before our program, such as The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Malawi, Congo and more. Together with African First Ladies, and other important partners, we are making history and reshaping the landscape of Fertility & Reproductive care across Africa and beyond,” Dr. Kelej added.

According to WHO data, more than 180 million couples in developing countries – that is 1 in every 4 couples, suffer from infertility. In many cultures in Africa, infertility is a huge stigma. Women are solely blamed for failing to conceive and the social stigma of childlessness, especially for women, leads to isolation and stigmatization and results in discrimination and ostracism.

This mostly also leads to divorce or physical or psychological violence. As a part of the “More Than a Mother” Campaign, Merck Foundation has launched many initiatives to break this stigma and create a culture shift.