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Merck Foundation Concludes Their First Merck Health Media Training to Break the Stigma Around Infertility in Africa

  • Dr.Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO, Merck Foundation and President Merck more Than a Mother with Jackline Mwende outside the home build for her by Merck Foundation
  • (L-R)(L-R) Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO, Merck Foundation and President Merck more Than a Mother; Prof. Koigi Kamau, Chairman Kenya Fertility Society; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society, Nigeria; Dr. Tareq Muhammad Salahuddin, Editor of Health Section, The Daily Star, Bangladesh; Ms. Modele Sarafa- Yusuf, Senior Freelance Journalist & Media Personality, Nigeria
  • Ms.Ms. Renee Ngamau, Radio Host/Life Coach, Capital FM; Ms. Carole Mandi, Founder/ Publisher, Carole Mandi Media; Mr. Gardy Chacha, Senior Health & Science Reporter, Standard Newspaper, Kenya (First Award Winner, Print Media category); Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO, Merck Foundation and President Merck more Than a Mother


  • Merck Foundation provides training to more than 200 Media Journalists from 17 African Countries
  • Merck Foundation starts hashtags #MenToo and #NoForInfertilityStigma to break the stigma of Infertility
  • Merck Foundation launched three songs to raise awareness about Male Infertility by Octopizzo, Susan Owiyo, Rozzy and Tom Close, African Singers from Kenya, Sierra Leone and Rwanda
  • Merck Foundation to call for application for ‘Merck more than a Mother’ Media Recognition Award 2018

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany conducted their First Merck Health Media Training in Nairobi, Kenya. The training program was attended by over 200 journalists representing multimedia, print and online media from 17 African countries.
“I am excited to conduct this training session and glad to see attendance from so many media representatives. We focused on the international standards and media ethics for reporting sensitive issues like infertility in Africa. It was designed to benefit the journalists in understanding the infertility issues and to learn the best media practices to cover such issues. With the success of this program, we look forward to scale it up to Francophone African countries and Asian countries in 2018,” said Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck more than a Mother.
The training program was a part of ‘Merck more than a Mother’ community awareness program. It was organized to emphasize on the important role that media plays to influence our society to create a cultural shift with the aim to break the stigma around infertility in general and infertile women in particular.
It was addressed by the stalwarts of media community from Asian and African countries including India, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Kenya and South Africa. Also present were top fertility experts from Africa.
During the training program, Merck Foundation announced the start of new hashtags #MenToo and #NoForInfertilityStigma to invite media from all over Africa to share its opinions and stories on social media about the topic.
This program also provided an excellent opportunity for the journalists from Africa to network with each other and work as a unit to eradicate the stigma around infertility.
“The media community has immensely benefitted from this training program. I appreciate the efforts by Merck Foundation to bring together all African media and important stakeholders on one platform. This will definitely result in the required cultural shift across the African communities,” emphasized Tom Mshindi, Editor-in-chief, Nation Media Group.
“It is a great initiative by Merck Foundation, it helped to educate media about infertility prevention and male infertility which very critical for Africa, since around 85% of infertility caused by untreated infectious diseases, hence prevention is very important. And also that how infertility is preventable in many cases,” said Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society, Nigeria.
The program saw attendance from journalists from various African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia, Botswana, Liberia, Cameroon, Burundi, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Sierra Leona.
The list of speakers included Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation; Pauline Wanjiku Kibui, first female Embryologist in Kenya; Dr. Koigi Kamau, Chairman, Kenya Fertility Society; Dr.Wanjiru Ndengwa, Gyn and IVF Specialists, Kenya; Dr. Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, BW Business World & Exchange4media, India; Tom Mshindi, Editor-in-Chief, Nation Media Group; Jean-Luc Emile, Chief Editor and news presenter, Radio Plus and Teleplus, Mauritius; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society, Nigeria; Dr. Tareq Muhammad Salahuddin, Editor of Health Section of The Daily Star, Bangladesh; Mathatha Tsedu, Health Journalist from South Africa and Renee Ngamau, Capital FM, Kenya.
“Not only media but Art also has the capacity and influence to make the problem felt, which further stimulates emotions and leads to engagement then action. So, we have collaborated with famous singers; Suzanna Owíyo and Octopizzo from Kenya, Tom Close from Rwanda and Rozzy from Sierra Leone to launch three theme songs: ‘Warriers’, ‘Life is Bigger’, ‘More than a Mother’ addressing the issue with specific focus on Male infertility to encourage men to speak up about their infertility and join the treatment journey with their wives. The songs were released during the award ceremony and I personally believe that they will add significant value to influence the culture change we are advocating for at all levels,” added Dr. Rasha Kelej.
Merck Foundation also held an award ceremony for ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Media Recognition Awards 2017 on the 9th of July. The awards were organized to emphasize the role of media in enhancing the public engagement and understanding of infertility stigma and the need to change its social perception in African communities.
Merck foundation also announced the call for application for ‘Merck more than a Mother’ Media Recognition Award 2018 at the end of the ceremony and encouraged all African media to be advocate for the campaign and apply for the competition.
About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign
In many cultures, childless women suffer discrimination, stigma, and ostracism. Their inability to have children results in great isolation, disinheritance, and assaults. ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ empowers such women through the access to information, health, change of mindsets and economic empowerment.
As part of this Campaign, we started “Empowering Berna” project in Africa to help childless and infertile women starting their own business and thus achieve financial independence and become stronger and happier. The project has benefited more than 1,000 women across the continent.
Also, part of the campaign is our Merck Embryology & Fertility Training Program, a three-month hands-on practical course to establish the platform of fertility specialists across Africa and Asia.
Merck Foundation provided for more than 50 candidates, three months to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 29 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire , Ghana, Ethiopia , Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania , Zambia , Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Burkina Fuso, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameron, Rwanda, Botswana, DR Congo , Congo Brazzaville, Gambia , Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia.
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 such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, and Guinea. 
Merck Foundation plan supported the establishment of the first public IVF centers in Ethiopia and Uganda through providing the clinical and practical training necessary for their staff. Merck Foundation also plans to support the establishment of the first public IVF in Tanzania soon.
‘Merck more than a Mother’ launched in 2015, is a program of the Merck Foundation, the foundation drives many of our initiatives and programs in the area of build health care and research capacity and improves access to equitable healthcare solutions.

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About Merck Foundation

The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.
About Merck

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Almost 53,000 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 2017, Merck generated sales of € 15.3 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 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.