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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

Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.com), 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 – bit.ly/3rty2Oz

“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 – bit.ly/3cg281E

With “More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to break infertility at all levels by raising awareness and supporting girls’ education

“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.

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