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Sierra Leone News: African First Ladies pledge to empower infertile women – Merck trains first infertility experts in Salone

First Ladies from nine African countries have on Monday 17th December 2018, pledged to become Ambassadors of ‘Merck More Than A Mother’ campaigned to eliminate stigma around infertility in their countries. Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany conducted the 5th Edition of “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” in Dakar, Senegal presided over by President Macky Sall and in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Senegal in Dakar. According to a Press Release from Merck Foundation, during the Luminary, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, that he is very proud that many First Ladies have partnered with Merck Foundation and accepted to be the Ambassadors of their unique and historic campaign “Merck more than a Mother” to empower infertile women and eliminate the stigma around infertility in their countries. The First Ladies of Senegal, Botswana, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia took the pledge during the opening ceremony of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2018. The First Ladies also discussed the strategy to build healthcare capacity in the fields of cancer, infertility, diabetes and hypertension in their respective countries in partnership with Merck Foundation. Fatima Maada Bio, First Lady of Sierra Leone said that she has heard and witnessed stories of infertile women and that the attitude of the people towards these women is not progressive or informed. First Lady of Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, said that the campaign is very critical for her country and for Africa at large. “I firmly believe in the importance to empower infertile women, who are mistreated and discriminated against in many cultures for not being able to have children and start a family,” she said. “This is the first time we have an initiative that empowers infertile women and takes care of them,” First Lady of the Republic of Burundi, Denise Nkurunziza noted. Brigitte Touadera, the First Lady of Central Africa Republic, said, “I happily accepted to be the ambassador of Merck More than a Mother in 2016. This is a historic campaign that I launched with them in my country”. The First Lady of Chad, Hinda Deby Itno, said we can create a culture shift across Africa to empower childless women by creating awareness and a cultural shift. Ghana’s First Lady, Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo said that she joins the campaign along with her Rebecca Foundation to work closely with Merck Foundation to empower women and adolescents. “We will tell women to value themselves, as they are more than just mothers, they are productive members of the society.” The First Lady of Niger, Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou will 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. The First Lady of Zambia, Esther Lungu said there is a serious need for a cultural shift about infertility and its prevention. Merck Foundation provided, three to six months clinical and practical training for more than 84 fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 29 countries across Africa and Asia including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia, Nigeria and Mali. Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, and Guinea.


By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Tuesday December 17, 2018.

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