African First Ladies, Merck discuss women empowerment

Photo: Merck Foundation

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, staged the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) Summit in Bujumbura, Burundi from March 30 to April 1. 

The event was attended by 15 African First Ladies to discuss the strategy to break the stigma of infertility and empower women and girls in education.

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees said “Merck through its foundation is committed to support the social and economic development of Africa, Asia and developing countries by building healthcare capacity. Our aim is to improve access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions across African continent”.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother explained, “I am very proud to partner with the African first ladies to become ‘Merck more than a Mother’ ambassadors and partner with them to build healthcare capacity , break the stigma of infertility and empower women and girls in education with special focus on STEM . 

“During our strategy meeting, we shared experiences, discussed challenges and defined solutions to ensure continuous improvement and exchange variable aspects of different cultures in order to localize specific messages that can raise health awareness and create a culture shift to empower women and girls  across Africa.”

First ladies who attended the summit included Neo Jane Masisi (Botswana), Denise Nkurunziza (Burundi), Brigitte Touadera (Central African Republic), Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso (Congo) and Rebecca Akufo-Addo(Ghana).

Others were Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow (The Gambia), Conde Djene (Guinea), Clar Weah (Liberia), Professor Gertrude Mutharika (Malawi), Mariam Mint Ahmad Tekber (Mauritania) and Dr. Isaura Ferrao Nyusi (Mozambique).

Monica Geingos (Namibia), Aissata Issoufou Mahamado (Niger), Fatima Maada Bio(Sierra Leone) and Auxillia Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe) were also at the summit.

A special training program was organized for the first ladies’ technical teams to enable them to achieve the agreed objectives and follow up on Merck Foundation’s programs of building capacity in different sectors.

Some of the first ladies spoke about their impressions of the event:

Denise Nkurunziza: “Thanks to Merck Foundation for inviting me. We recently launched their programs in my country, and they are proving to be very substantial. They will be proving clinical training on fertility and oncology to our doctors. We also provided together the health media training to the journalists to understand the infertility issues and to break the stigma attached to infertility”

Brigitte Touadera: “I am very proud to work closely to advance healthcare sector and empower infertile women in my country”.

Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso:“I am happy to know that Merck Foundation will help train our doctors and media to raise awareness about health issues and improve patient care in my country .  This will prove to be very beneficial for our citizens.”

Rebecca Akufo-Addo: “Through Rebecca Foundation, we have been working closely with Merck Foundation to empower women and youth. Also, we have also launched together unique initiatives like media recognition, Film and Fashion Awards in our country to break stigma around infertility. I am sure that our partnership will go a long way towards benefiting the people of my country.”

Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow: “Merck Foundation has provided training to first fertility specialists and first oncologists in The Gambia. We are making history together. We will continue this program in partnership with my foundation and Ministry of Health to improve access to cost effective and quality fertility and cancer care in the country.”

Conde Djene: “I am proud of our association with Merck Foundation. They supported the establishment of First IVF Centre in our country by providing expert. They also trained the first fertility specialists and specialized oncologists in Guinea. This is a great milestone. Together we will change the landscape of Fertility and cancer care in the country.”

Liberian First Lady Clar Weah (middle) speaks at the summit
Photo: Merck Foundation

Clar Weah: “I am happy to partner with Merck Foundation. They will provide specialized training to our doctors in the field of Fertility, Oncology and Diabetes Management. They will also train media to break the infertility stigma and will launch initiatives to empower women and girls in education. We hope that our partnership will continue to benefit the people of our country.”

Professor Gertrude Mutharika: “I am very proud and happy to be a part of MFFLI Summit and look forward to a long term partnership with Merck Foundation. We will closely work together on all their initiatives to build healthcare capacity and train our media to sensitize our communities on sensitive issues like infertility stigma.”

Dr. Isaura Ferrao Nyusi: “I am excited to be a part of MFFLI Summit. I welcome all the initiatives of Merck Foundation in my country.”

Aissata Issoufou Mahamado: “I am the Ambassador of “Merck more than a Mother”  in my country to help raise awareness about infertility prevention, management, male infertility and to break the stigma around infertile women to empower them, as they are not just child bearers. Merck Foundation has provided clinical training to our doctors in the field of Fertility, Oncology and Diabetes. I would like to thank them for this and hope they continue to support us.”

Auxillia Mnangagwa: “I am very excited to be the ambassador of Merck more than a Mother Ambassador and welcome Merck foundation to our country. We hope that we will soon launch their programs in together so that the people of Zimbabwe can also benefit like other African countries.”


African Press Organisation