- Through ‘Empowering Berna’ project, “Merck More than a Mother” empowers infertile women socially and economically.
- “Merck More than a Mother” aims to improve access to information, education, healthcare and change of mind-set to break the stigma around infertility.
Speaking at the event, Belén Garijo, Member of Executive Board and CEO of Merck Healthcare emphasized: “I believe in women empowerment and especially childless women – they are mistreated and discriminated in many cultures for being unable to have children and start a family. Empowering these women through access to information, health, and change of mind set to remove the stigma of infertility is needed. Through “Merck More than a Mother” we are supporting this strong message together with our partners and we will continue our commitment to improve access to regulated and effective fertility care in Africa.”
The day’s program also included a courtesy visit to Uganda’s First Lady H.E. Janet Museveni at State House,Kampala by the Merck delegation to brief her on the “Merck More than a Mother” initiative and to explore possible areas of collaboration. The delegation consisted of H.E. Madame Brigitte Touadera, First Lady, Central African Republic; Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; Belen Garijo, CEO, Merck Healthcare; Virginie Baiokua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Central African Republic; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; and Lina Ekomo, Central African Republic.
“In Africa including Uganda, infertile women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. More often an inability to have a child or to become pregnant results in the woman being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This sometimes also results in divorce or physical and psychological violence. I am glad to see an initiative that addresses this challenge in the public domain in Africa as it is something that no one talks about and is treated as secret. “Merck More than a Mother” is therefore very important for Africa since it aims to define interventions to reduce the stigma and social suffering of infertile women across the continent,” said, Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda.
Madame Brigitte Touadera, the First Lady of the Central African Republic (CAR) said: “I am very happy to participate in today’s launch another milestone of “Merck More than a Mother” in Uganda as it follows the one we had for the Central African Republic (CAR) last month and in Kenya yesterday. As the champion for the initiative in CAR and for Francophone Africa, I acknowledge the social suffering infertile women go through and the role that “Merck More than a Mother” is playing to eliminate this suffering and stigmatization by raising awareness about infertility prevention, male infertility and the necessity of a team approach to family building among couples which is very critical for Africa.”
Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare explained: “Empowering those women across Ugandan rural villages was very essential, those women suffered great deal of discrimination, violence and isolation. Moreover meeting community members and leaders there to emphasize the importance to change their perception of infertility and infertile women in specific was very productive. I have witnessed firsthand the instant change of their mind-set and the transformation of those vulnerable childless women to strong, proud and productive community members.”
According to the World Health Organization(WHO), lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation, exposure to smoking and to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants. Hence prevention awareness is very important,” Sarah Opendi added.
“The businesses established by “Empowering Berna” project are benefitting over800women in many districts in Ugandawho have come together in groups and have been trained and supported to establish bakery, catering and tent hire businesses and more. They are currently able to earn an income to support themselves from their own new businesses – they are now ‘more than mothers,’” Rasha Kelej added.
Over 1,000 infertile women in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania,CAR, Ethiopia, Liberiaand Cote D’Ivoire who can no longer be treated have been empowered socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives through “Empowering Berna”.
The event in Uganda was attended by policy makers including ministers and fertility experts and included: Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda;Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; VirginieBaikoua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, CAR; Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; OladapoAshiru, President of Africa Fertility Society; Joe Simpson, Past President, International Federation of Fertility Societies; Paul Le Roux, President of Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy; Kamini Rao, Chair International Institute for Training &Research in Reproductive Health, India; and Mohamed Kamal, President of Future Assured Foundation, Nigeria.
|Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare, engages with religious leaders in Tororo, Uganda on how they can support the fight against the stigmatization and discrimination of infertile women in their communities.|
Watch videos below of Ugandan women who are infertile and have been supported to start their own businesses through “Merck More than a Mother’s” Empowering Berna Project.
|Merck More Than a Mother with Ugandan Women|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Atieno Petwa|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Aketcho Mary|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Alow Manzeliana|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Atieno Jennifer|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Auma Rose|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Apio Jessica|
|Merck More Than a Mother with Rose Nyagol|
Watch below the video of a Ugandan couple Byansi and Sawuyaand their battle with infertility and how they sought fertility care together and got a baby.
|Merck More Than a Mother with Byansi Adrian Ssemugga and SawuyaNtongo, couple from Uganda|
About Merck Capacity Advancement Program- Merck CAP The Merck Capacity Advancement Program (CAP) is a ten-year program aiming to expand professional capacity in developing countries in the areas of research and development, advocacy building, supply-chain integrity and efficiency, pharmacovigilance, medical education, and community awareness. It was established in 2012.
Merck CAP signature initiatives include the following:Merck Universities Program, Merck Diabetes and Hypertension Awards, Merck Cancer Access Program, Merck More than a Mother and “Merck STEM Program for Girls and Women”.
About Merck More than a Mother The aim is to empower infertile women in Africa through improving access to information, health, change mind-set and economic empowerment. Please visit to www.merckmorethanamother.com for more information. “Merck More than a Mother” Strategy and Objectives:
- Create a culture shift to de-stigmatize infertility and to build respect and understanding around infertile women in Africa.
- Raise awareness about infertility prevention management and male infertility by integrating the topics into existing healthcare infrastructure, such as HIV, maternal health, and mother and child programs.
- Education and training for African embryologists to build the needed capacity.
- Supporting policy makers to define artificial reproductive therapy (ART) policies to improve access to regulated fertility care.
- Building advocacy and open dialogue and working closely with governments, policy makers, parliaments, healthcare providers, fertility experts and the media to define interventions that will reduce social suffering and improve access to regulated, effective and safe fertility care in Africa.
- Empowering infertile women socially and economically through access to education and healthcare, and by changing mind-sets. For example, empowering women who cannot be treated by helping them to start a small business through the “Empowering Berna”project.
Facebook page: Merckmorethanamother
YouTube: Merck More than a Mother
About Merck Cancer Access Program Merck has started this program in Africa with two initiatives:
- Merck Africa Medical Oncology Program
- Merck More than a Patient initiative
About Merck Universities Program The program provides European accredited diabetes and hypertension management for medical undergraduates and postgraduates from African universities. It enables them to become diabetes and hypertension ambassadors across the continent, especially in rural areas. More than 17,000 medical students from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda have benefited from this program and we aim to reach 25,000 by 2018.
Merck launched the “Merck Diabetes Award” and the “Merck Hypertension Award” in March 2016 as part of the Merck Capacity Advancement Program for Africa and Asia with the aim to build a platform of diabetes and hypertension experts across the globe.
Merck STEM for Women and Girls
Through its annual platform UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit, the Merck STEM program aims to empower young and women African researchers in order to prepare for the road ahead in Africa’s development as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation. Furthermore Merck has launched for the first time, “MARS best African Women Researcher Award” to empower women in the fields of Research and healthcare.
Please visit www.unesco-mars.com for more information. To read more about Merck Capacity Advancement Program initiatives in Africa, visit www.merck-cap.com and www.merck-africa.com.
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About Merck Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2015, Merck generated sales of € 12.85 billion in 66 countries.
Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials.