Merck continues to empower Kenyan women through “Merck More than a Mother” and “Merck STEM for Women and Girls” programs

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  • "Merck More than a Mother" supports infertile women through access to information, health and change of mindset.

  • "Merck STEM Program for Women and Girls" launched in Kenya.

  • Merck inaugurates "OLYMPIC School" where they equipped the library with a computer lab as part of their program "STEM for Women and Girls" in Africa.

Merck has announced their commitment to empower Kenyan women through their" Merck More than a Mother "and the start of "Merck STEM for Women and Girls" programs.

Dr. Belen Garijo, CEO Merck Healthcare; Liz Mbuthia, Board Member, Women 4 Cancer and Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare with women cancer survivors empowered through “Merck More than a Patient” to establish their own businesses to rebuild their lives and become productive members of society

Speaking at the event in Nairobi, Dr. 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."

Courtesy visit with Kenya’s First Lady: From left to right: Lina Ekomo, Central African Republic; Hon. Virgnie Baiokua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Central African Republic; H.E. Madame Brigitte Touadera, First Lady, Central African Republic; H.E. Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady, Republic of Kenya; Dr. Belen Garijo, CEO, Merck Healthcare; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Leonard Saika, Director - Regional Head of Social Responsibility & Market Development – Africa, Merck

The day’s program also included a courtesy visit to Kenya’s First Lady H.E. Margaret Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi by the Merck delegation to brief her on the two programs and to explore possible areas of collaboration. The delegation consisted of H.E. Madame Brigitte Touadera, First Lady, Central African Republic; Dr. Belen Garijo, CEO, Merck Healthcare; Hon. Virginie Baiokua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Central African Republic; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; Leonard Saika, Director - Regional Head of Social Responsibility & Market Development – Africa, Merck and Lina Ekomo, Central African Republic.

Madame Brigitte Touadera, the First Lady of the Central African Republic (CAR) emphasized: “I am very happy to participate in today’s event of ‘Merck More than a Mother” in Kenya as it follows the one we had for the Central African Republic (CAR) last month. As the champion for the initiative in CAR and for Francophone Africa, I acknowledge the role that “Merck More than a Mother” is playing to break the stigma around infertile women and to raise awareness about infertility prevention, male infertility and the necessity of a team approach to family building among couples which is very critical for Africa.”

“It is very important to empower infertile women through improving access to awareness and fertility care so they can bear children as part of their human rights. In case they can no longer be treated, ‘Empowering Berna’ project will contribute towards empowering and training them to establish their own small business so that they can be independent and re-build their lives – a woman is more than a mother, ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative will prove this every day,” Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer Merck emphasized.

Dignitaries at the “Merck More than a Mother” event in Nairobi with infertile women who are being supported through ‘Empowering Berna’ Project: Front row (left to right) Hon. Susan Mutua, Women Representative, Machakos; Hon. Joyce Lay, MP Taita Taveta; Hon. Virginie Baiokua, Minister for Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Central African Republic; Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; H.E. Madame Brigitte Touadera, First Lady, Central African Republic; H.E. Dr. Evans Kidero, Governor Nairobi County; Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; Anne Wamae, Ministry of Health, Kenya and Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Public Sanitation

In 2016, over 1,000 infertile women in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Ghana, Central African Republic and Cote D’Ivoire who can no longer be treated have been empowered socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives through the “Empowering Berna” project.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu stated in his speech read on his behalf: “As a ministry we are happy with the strategic partnership we have with Merck in Kenya through its Merck Capacity Advancement Program initiatives which are boosting our healthcare capacity with special focus on diabetes, cancer and infertility which contribute to the country’s economic progression”.

“In recognition of the important role women can play in the economic and social development of Africa, Merck is empowering them to participate in STEM where they are currently under-represented, through the “Merck STEM Program” which we are launching today,” Dr. Garijo said.

Merck inaugurated their initiative at OLYMYPIC School where they equipped their library with a Computer Lab to encourage young girls to study science and technology as part of their “STEM for Girls and Women” program in Africa. Furthermore the winners of UNESCO-MARS awards will act as ambassadors in their respective countries.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare speaks to a young school girl at Olympic School in Nairobi during the launch of the “Merck STEM for Women and Girls Program” as H.E. Madame Brigitte Touadera, First Lady Central African Republic and Dr. Belen Garijo, CEO, Merck Healthcare listen. The event included the launch of a computer library at the school.

The Governor of Nairobi County, Dr. Evans Kidero announced during his keynote speech: “We are happy to partner with reputable and innovative companies such as Merck. We believe that the only way to effectively tackle the health and research related challenges we are facing can only be through establishing Public Private Partnership models in implementing successful programs. The size and complexity of the task is so large that no single organization or institution can manage on its own, so integration of efforts is necessary to achieve the health gains that our nation deserves”.

“The Merck STEM Program will encourage our young women and girls to undertake science and technology related courses and make active contribution to the social and economic development of our country”, Dr. Kidero added.

Pupils at Olympic School in Nairobi demonstrate their interest in technology during the launch of the “Merck STEM for Women and Girls” Program at the school.

“Through this program Merck is targeting to empower over 7,000 girls and 60 women researchers across Africa in 2017 through various initiatives which include setting up computer libraries in schools similar to the one we are launching today for the first time in Kenya at Olympic School in Kibera, Nairobi, and appointing the UNESCO-MARS research award winners as ambassadors for the ‘Merck STEM Program” Dr. Rasha Kelej added.

About “Merck STEM for Girls and Women“ The program started UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS) as its first initiative that has been held annually since 2015. UNESCO-MARS aims to build research capacity and empower young African researchers with special focus on empowering women in the fields of research and healthcare to raise the level of scientific research in Africa and improve access to health solutions in the continent,” explained Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Beatrice Nyagol, a researcher at Kenya Medical Research Institute, the 1st place winner of 2016 UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit ‘Best African Women Researcher Award’ is awarded at home by Dr. Belen Garijo, CEO Merck Healthcare; and H.E. Dr. Evans Kidero, Governor, Nairobi County as Prof. George Godia (left) UNESCO Ambassador for Kenya; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Dr. Susan Mboya Kidero look on. The 2016 UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Beatrice was first awarded.

During the 2016 UNESCO-MARS, the ‘Best African Women Researchers Awards’ were launched for the first time with the aim of promoting women in STEM that saw five women researchers from across Africa recognized for the quality of their research. The first award went to Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, who was also celebrated during the event in Nairobi.

During the event, a high level panel discussion by fertility experts and policy makers called for action to break the stigma around infertile women; raising awareness about infertility prevention and management; defining policies to regulate ART; improving access to cost effective fertility care by integrating it into public reproductive health services and building fertility care capacity and providing training to African embryologists.

High level panel members make their contribution on how to improve access to fertility care in Africa and reduce the stigmatization and discrimination of infertile women through a Culture Shift during the “Merck More than a Mother” event in Nairobi. From left to right: Dr. Kamini Rao, Chair Chairperson of International Institute for Training and Research in Reproductive Health, India; Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Taita Taveta, Kenya; Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; Hon. Virginie Baikoua, Minister for Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Central African Republic; Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister for Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson, Immediate Past President of International Federation of Fertility Societies; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President, Africa Fertility Society; Dr. Paul Le Roux, President of Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynecological Endoscopy and Dr. Mohamed Kamal, National Coordinator, Future Assured Foundation, Nigeria

The high level panel included: Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Hon. Virginie Baikoua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, CAR; Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Prof, Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society; Prof. Joe Simpson, Past President, International Federation of Fertility Societies; Prof. Paul Le Roux, President of Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy; Dr. Kamini Rao, Chair International Institute for Training & Research in Reproductive Health, India; Dr. Mohamed Kamal, President of Future Assured Foundation, Nigeria and Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

In addition to Kenya, “Merck More than a Mother” is already being implemented in Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire and CAR.

During the event Merck also highlighted other CAP initiatives in Kenya:

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare engages with Prof. Nicholas Abinya (left) Program Director, Medical Oncology Fellowship Program, University of Nairobi together with the first fellows of the Program – Dr. Boginkosi Shoba from South Africa and Dr. Angela McLigeyo and Dr. Ezzi Mohamed from Kenya on the need for increasing the limited number of qualified oncologists in Africa through the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program.

“Merck Cancer Access Program” which aims to increase the number of qualified oncologists through “Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program” in partnership with the University of Nairobi, Kenya and Tata Memorial Hospital in India. Furthermore Merck aims to support women cancer survivors to establish their own small business so that they can lead an independent and productive life through “Merck More than a Patient” initiative.

From left to right: Prof. Elijah Ogola, Vice President, Pan African Society of Cardiology; Prof. Frederik Otieno, Endocrinology Specialist; Merck Diabetes and Hypertension Award winners, Elisha Ngetich, Ralph Obure, Ezekiel Osolika, Samuel Mucheru, and Sheila Wambui with Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare highlight the urgent need for diabetes and hypertension ambassadors and experts in Africa that the Awards aim to build.

“Merck Diabetes and Hypertension Awards” with the aim to building a platform of diabetes and hypertension experts across the globe through a one year online diabetes and cardiovascular medicine diploma at University of South Wales, United Kingdom. In 2016 six winners from Kenyan universities received the awards.

Watch videos below of TV interviews in Kenya with Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Taita Taveta, Kenya as they speak on infertility and what “Merck More than a Mother” initiative is doing in Africa.

Merck More than a Mother-Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer at Merck - TV interview on NTV, Kenya

Merck More than a Mother- Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer at Merck - TV interview on KBC Channel1, Kenya

Watch TV coverage below of the “Merck More than a Mother” and “Merck STEM women and Girls Program” in Nairobi.

Coverage of Merck More than a Mother and Merck STEM for Women and Girls, on Ebru TV, Kenya

Watch below videos on the story of Grace Kambini, an infertile woman from Kenya before and after she enrolled in “Merck More than a Mother’s” ‘Empowering Berna’ Program.

Merck More Than a Mother with Grace Kambini AKA "Mama Chips"

Merck More Than a Mother - The Story of Empowering Grace Kambini

Join the Merck CAP Research on-line community to exchange experiences and information with other researchers in Africa and beyond www.merck-cap.com free registration www.merck-cap.com free registration