First ladies in the African region, and the Merck Foundation have pledged to empower women, and address stigma around infertility in their various countries and the region and beyond.
They made the commitments during the 9th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference on Thursday.
Over 6, 000 participants comprising policy makers, academia, healthcare providers, researchers and health media from over 70 countries attended the hybrid online and in person conference in Dubai.
While enumerating the milestones of Merck Foundation in addressing healthcare challenges in their various countries, the first ladies who are also Ambassadors of Merck More Than a Mother campaign, also promised to continue to partner with the foundation to build the capacity of health personnel and provide scholarships and essential school items for girls.
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They include the First Ladies of The Gambia, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the First Lady of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Central African Republic ,Madam Brigitte Touadera, the Republic of Mozambique , Isaura Ferrão Nyusi, Malawi , Monica Chakwera, and Democratic Republic of Congo , Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi.
Others are First ladies of Burundi, Angeline Ndayishimiye, Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, Republic of Sierra Leone, Fatima Maada Bio, Republic of Namibia, Monica Geingos, Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi.
Isaura Ferrão Nyusi, the First Lady of the Republic of Mozambique said the ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign is very critical for her country and Africa, adding that she is fully committed to working closely to introduce more such innovative ideas that engage different sectors to create a culture shift with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and make a great impact in a short time.
She said, “ I firmly believe in the importance of empowering infertile women, not only through creating a culture shift but to raise awareness about Infertility prevention. Also, I strongly believe in empowering our girls and women in education and in general and addressing critical social issues like ending child marriage, ending female genital mutilation, stopping gender based violence, etc.”
Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First Lady of Ghana, said it is important to empower women in general and infertile women in particular, not only through creating a culture shift but by also making the fertility, sexual and reproductive care available for them and their husbands whenever they need it.
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, said the foundation in collaboration with African First Ladies has been breaking the silence on a wide range of critical and sensitive social and health issues like supporting girl education, breaking infertility stigma, stopping GBV and FGM, ending child marriage and empowering women at all levels; through many of her innovative and unique initiatives like.
Kelej who was named Most Influential African Women 2022 for the fourth year , said through the partnership with 20 African First Ladies as Ambassadors of More Than a Mother” Campaign, the foudation has provided more than 1,470 scholarships to young doctors from 50 countries.
Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp , Chairman of Board of Trustees , Merck Foundation , and Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG, commended the first ladies for their efforts in creating awareness about infertility ad other health issues in their various countries.