Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, marked World ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) Day 2023 together with African First Ladies, who are also the Ambassadors of the Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Campaign, by building and advancing fertility care capacity in Africa and Asia.
Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, More Than A Mother emphasised, “We at Merck Foundation strongly believe in the critical role of Embryologists and Fertility & Reproductive Care Specialists to empower infertile women through improving their access to information, change of mindset and quality & equitable fertility care across Africa & Asia as part of our More than A Mother campaign.”
Senator Dr Kelej added that “As a part of the campaign, we marked World ART Day by providing more than 490 scholarships to young doctors from 39 countries to be the local Embryologists, Fertility & Reproductive care experts in their countries. Moreover, many of our alumni were trained to be the first local experts in their countries where they never had even a single local embryologist or fertility specialist before our program such as; The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Malawi, Congo, Mozambique and more. Together with Merck Foundation alumni, and our partners, we are making history and reshaping the landscape of fertility and reproductive care across Africa and beyond.”
Merck Foundation’s More Than A Mother is a strong movement that aims to empower women living with infertility through access to information, education, change of mindset, and economic empowerment. This powerful campaign defines interventions to build quality and equitable reproductive and fertility care capacity, break infertility stigma and raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility.
“To give an overview, out of our total 1,580 scholarships, we have provided more than 215 Scholarships for clinical and practical training to fertility specialists and embryologists, and more than 275 scholarships for PG Diplomas and Master Degrees in Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Clinical Psychiatry, Women’s Health, Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction & Embryology, Urology, and Laparoscopic Surgical skills to doctors from 39 countries across Africa and Asia. We are proud of this achievement”, stated Dr Kelej.
Merck Foundation has also trained more than 2,500 media representatives from more than 35 countries to raise community awareness and break the stigma around infertility and infertile and childless women.
Through their Empowering Berna initiative under their More Than A Mother movement, they have helped women who cannot be treated for infertility anymore by helping them to get trained to establish small businesses so that they can be independent and rebuild their lives. It has transformed the lives of many in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Niger, Malawi, and many more.
The Foundation in partnership with African First Ladies also launched David’s Story, a children’s storybook to emphasise strong family values of love and respect from a young age which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and the resulted domestic violence in the future. The storybooks have been localised for each country and published in three languages: English, French and Portuguese – to have a better connection with the young readers.
Add to that the pan-African TV programme, Our Africa, conceptualised, produced, directed, and co-hosted by Dr Kelej, featuring African fashion designers, singers, and experts from various domains with the aim to raise awareness and create a culture shift across Africa. Catch Episode 3, Episode 5 and Episode 10 here, all dedicated to raising awareness about infertility and breaking the infertility stigma.
The Foundation released some 30 songs, many created with the aim of breaking the infertility stigma, all as part of their More Than A Mother campaign. “To address this important issue of breaking infertility stigma and also a wide range of other social issues, we annually launch More Than A Mother Awards in partnership with African First Ladies.”
If you are in African media, fashion, filmmaking, music, or a student with potential talent in these fields, apply for the 2023 awards. Help create a culture shift and break the silence about infertility stigma, supporting girl child education, women empowerment, ending child marriage and FGM, and/or stopping GBV at all levels. Work should be submitted to email@example.com.