Two Plus Two Equals Four!!!

My water broke around 3:30 that Sunday afternoon. Since I’d been in ‘barely there’ labor since 9 in the morning, everything was ready and already by the door. I quickly put on the blue dress that boyfriend was ironing at the time and we rushed out...

Modern Mom Can't Cook

The food had just started boiling when I heard a knock on the door. My pocket was hurting that day; I only had 4 shillings to my name. Not one to despair, I was contented working with what I had – rice, potatoes and an onion. Without the tomatoes to at least add some color, I was prepared to have some very bland lunch. But it was ok, ...

Biggest Baby Expenses and How to Save on Them

Though the spending on the new baby is inevitable, there are steps you can take to ensure that you keep the costs at a minimum. In this post, we look at the biggest baby expenses and how to save on them ...

I am Selfish

There’s a long hoot and I’m screaming his name at the top of my lungs. In that split second, I see my life come to an end. I see myself losing my best friend barely two days after his coming home. I see him robbed of life right before my very eyes...

I'm Home at the Candy Shop

Essentials greets you as you enter. Though on the first floor, it is the first thing that draws your eyes as you walk in. There’s something about kids' stuff that just whispers to you; especially when you are a parent. Without the pressure of shopping and a baby tagging at my skirt telling me that she wants this or that, I felt like I was in a candy store. And I sort of was.

Dealing with Unwarranted Parenting Advice

Being different is ok. We are all special in one way or another. This memo, however, did not get to the perfection bullies. When your child is a little different, they’ll make it their business to tell you what you probably did wrong to end up where you are, and come up with so many solutions to your problem your head will spin.

Melina's Messy Updo

A messy updo comes in handy when I need to do a simple hairstyle in little to no time. I have found that it works best on freshly washed hair as the curls are more defined then. You do not even have to comb it. Just shampoo, condition, moisturize, oil and style :-)

Of Housegirls and Parenting

She called early Sunday morning telling me that she was in town but when I went to get her, my calls went unanswered. Thirty missed calls later, I could not reach her. Thinking that her phone must have run out of charge, I now had the hectic task of looking for her in a crowded town via footsteps the way it used to be done like 3 presidents ago ...

Goodbye Ceskycess. Hello, Modern Mom.

When I started blogging, I had no idea what I wanted to say. I therefore wrote some really pathetic posts and prayed that no one would ever read them. A few months later, a love interest did some stalking, found my blog and read the half-baked posts. To please me (I think), he praised and gushed my writing.

“Merck More than a Patient” Initiative in partnership with “Women For Cancer” to empower women cancer survivors in Africa

 Merck More than a Patient” is a new initiative of “Merck Cancer Access Program” in Africa. Merck in partnership with Kenya’s “Women For Cancer” started this initiative with the aim to empower women cancer survivors in Kenya through supporting them to establish their own small business so that they can lead an independent and productive life. 

“I am very happy that “Merck More than a Patient” has this positive impact on these women’s lives. Therefore, this initiative will be launched in other African countries in 2017. Through our collaboration with cancer patients associations and cancer institutions across Africa, we aim to help uplift women cancer survivors to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy – and by doing so, they can now give back to the society through their new businesses. They will become more than cancer patients,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare.


Benda Kithaka and Co-Founder and Board Chair of Women4Cancer Early Detection & Treatment emphasized: “We are grateful to Merck for the continued support towards Women 4 Cancer survivors and our recent collaboration through the “Merck More than a Patient” initiative. The cancer patients are also appreciative that Merck is assisting them to make strides in gaining financial independence beyond their cancer survivorship.” 

“Merck is helping us achieve our “Women 4 Cancer” goal of ensuring the women our programme assists are getting a new found hope of a better tomorrow beyond the suffering brought on by cancer,” Kithaka added.

Benda Kithaka (3rd left standing), Co-Founder and Board Chair of Women 4 Cancer with Patient Navigators

Merck More than a Patient” empowers Rose Chiedo, a cervical cancer survivor - read her story …

Rose Atieno Chiedo, a 46 year old mother of one who lives in Nairobi, Kenya, is a cervical cancer survivor. Rose used to make and sell samosas before her cancer diagnosis and after her recovery she started to make jewellery in a small scale to cover some of her needs. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Rose to expand her jewellery business enabling her to generate a better and steady income to meet her needs and re-build her life.

More than a Patient: Rose Chiedo

Below is Rose’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

Rose used to complain of lower backaches and suffered from spotting. She went to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi for further investigation where she found out that she had cervical cancer Stage 2B. 

“When I was diagnosed with cancer in July 2013 the first thing that came to my mind was death,” Rose says as she narrates her painful journey. “Basically that is what anyone would think. People have a negative attitude towards cancer. The perception is that it cannot be treated,” she adds. 

“I shared the news with my brother and he was shocked. He became very worried about my health and where the money to cater for my treatment would come from as we are orphans. There was no one who could help me other than him. It was a big blow to him because he knew the whole burden would be on him of which he actually took up,” Rose explains.

Sad journey of treatment:

“From the beginning to the end of my treatment it was just sad because I didn’t have money and I was depending on someone else for support. Before my illness, I used to sell samosas (a fried flour shell filled with minced meat or vegetables and spices) at that time at Ksh 5 per piece. So for 100 samosas I would get Ksh 500 (USD 5) in a day. But I was not able to manage the business as I would get weak and they are very heavy to carry and deliver for customers. So I stopped the business,” Rose says sadly.

Rose was able to get treatment (radiotherapy and chemotherapy) in March 2014 after waiting for eight months. In August of the same year there was a recurrence and Rose had to go for further treatment. Women4Cancer a charitable organisation in Kenya supported her to cover her treatment in 2015.

Speaking of her treatment Rose says: “The queues are so long at the hospital. It seems like one is fighting a losing battle. But I realized it was not a losing battle when I finished my treatment. And that is when I started fighting to survive.”

After recovery, Rose has been making jewellery but on a very small scale to sell and support herself and other needy women. Rose had a dream to expand the business and train other women to generate income so that they become productive members in society.

Rose’s jewellery business expanded:

Merck More than a Patient” is a new initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program with the aim to empower women cancer survivors to re-build their shattered lives after the devastating cancer experience. It will help them to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Merck More than a Patient” has helped Rose to expand her jewellery business. Moreover, it has enrolled her in the Kenya Chamber of Commerce - Women in Business body, which will help her network with other entrepreneurial women, thus giving her a platform to generate even more business.

“What Merck has done is really going to help me to improve my business from small-scale to large-scale. I make my jewellery at home and sell it to my neighbors and friends. This business is something I can do at my convenience. I can carry the beads wherever I am going and I can sit anywhere and do my bead work,” Rose says with confidence and joy.

“I would really want to thank “Merck More than a Patient” and really appreciate them because this will help me to improve my life and will also enable me to use better quality materials because I can now be able to afford to buy them,” Rose adds.

I am not a patient anymore. I am a survivor and I am a victor! Rose concludes.

“Merck More than a Patient” empowers Esther Muthike, a cervical cancer survivor – read her story …

Esther Wakabari Muthike is a 75 year old widow from Kirinyaga in eastern Kenya and is a cancer survivor. Her husband passed away 25 years ago. Before she fell ill, Esther was a farmer who also reared cows for milk. She had to sell her cow to cater for her cancer treatment expenses. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Esther to get a cow from which she is able to get milk to sell to cover her needs. This has enabled Esther to get a steady income to become independent and re-build her life.

More than a Patient: Esther Wakabari Muthike

Below is Esther’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

Esther found out that she had cervical cancer in May 2015 at a medical camp organised by Women4Cancer. She was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital for further investigations and treatment in July 2015. She started radiotherapy and chemotherapy in September 2015 and finished treatment in November 2015.

“When I was told I had cancer, I knew I would die even if I was being treated. The doctors told us that cancer is incurable,” Esther says.

Stigmatised by family and community for having cancer:

Esther explains how she was stigmatised by her family and community: “When people heard that I had cancer, they told me to sell all my property because the disease is incurable. People in the community avoided me because they thought I would infect them with cancer. It is only one of my daughters - Susan who stood by me. She is the only one who used to wash my clothes. I had a foul smell and so people avoided me. I could not even go to visit my neighbours either. I could only visit Susan my daughter.”

“I used to be a small-scale farmer and I also had a cow that provided me and family with milk to sell some for an income. But I had to sell my cow when I fell ill with cancer. My daughter also sold her goats to help with the expenses,” Esther explains. 

Esther also stopped farming for a while due to the health issues and treatment procedures. However, after treatment, she went back to farming and hoped for help to buy a cow that would enable her to generate a steady income from the sale of milk to cater for her needs. 

Esther empowered and independent again:

Merck More than a Patient” initiative aims to empower women cancer survivors in Africa. This initiative has supported Esther to buy a cow to replace the one she sold to cover her treatment and to enable her to meet her needs and become independent again,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

More than a Patient: Esther Wakabari Muthike
“Merck has really changed my life by giving me a cow.  I now feel better. I now get milk to drink and sell. I have money in my hands from the sale of the milk. Previously I was not getting any money. I have named this cow Wambui because of its beauty. Before, I used to borrow milk from my neighbours. But now I am enjoying milk from Wambui. Since I got Wambui, I pray for Merck every day that they bless others the way they have blessed me. I am a victor, I am not sick anymore,” Esther says with a smile.

“Merck More than a Patient” empowers Margaret Njenga, a cervical cancer survivor – read her story …

Margaret Wanjiku Njenga is a cervical cancer survivor from Kiambu, Kenya. Margaret who is 47 years old is married with six children. She was diagnosed with cancer in August 2013 at a medical camp run by Women4Cancer. She was an active business woman who used to make and sell soap and disinfectants to schools. She also had a cow whose milk she used to sell. She could not continue with the business after she fell ill and she also had to sell her cow. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Margaret to get a cow which is about to give birth and she will have two. Margaret will be able to get a steady income from the sale of milk and be able to educate her children.

Margaret Wanjiku Njenga

Below is Margaret’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

Margaret explains: “My mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010. My sisters and I were advised to go for regular cancer screenings as we could also get it as it could be in our genes. I was screened four times and the doctors kept saying they could see something. In each of these times I was given medication. I went for a fifth check-up and the results showed an anomaly. I was advised to go to hospital and I was diagnosed with cancer.”

Diagnosed with cancer and stops doing business and farming:

At the hospital, Margaret was told she would need to have her uterus removed. “I went home and told my husband that I had cancer. Remembering how much pain my late mother had gone through and the amount of money she had spent on treatment and she still died, I told him it would be better to have my uterus removed so that I can raise my children,” she explains. “It didn’t mean that I would not die but I would have a few more years to live,” she adds.

“I would lock myself in the house after my children go school. I would think a lot and cry. I always saw myself dying. Who would take care of my children? I asked myself. My heart was very troubled,” Margaret narrates sadly.

“Before I became sick I used to make and sell home-made soap. I would go to schools to look for orders to supply them with the soap. I also started supplying the schools with toilet disinfectant. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to stop this job as it required walking long distances,” says Margaret.

“A friend who also had her uterus removed loaned me Ksh 10,000 (USD 100) to book for treatment at the hospital. I also had a cow whose milk I used to sell. I had to sell my cow so that I could raise money for my treatment as I did not have the  Ksh 30,000 (USD 300) required for the treatment all at once. I was also too stressed such that I could not work,” Margaret adds. 

Margaret empowered and uplifted:

When Margaret came from hospital she was unable to continue with the business she used to do before and they were struggling financially as a family. Their children were sent away from school for lack of fees as the money was not enough as she still had to buy medicine. 

Merck More than a Patient” is a new initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program with the aim to empower women cancer survivors to re-build their shattered lives after the devastating cancer experience. It will help them to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Merck through “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Margaret to buy a cow that will enable her financially through selling milk. “I am very happy because “Merck More than a Patient” has come to my aid and bought me a cow that will help me to continue raising my children. They have uplifted me and I am very happy and may God bless them,” Margaret says with joy. 

“Merck More than a Patient” empowers Loise Kimani, a cervical cancer survivor – read her story …

Loise Wambui Kimani from Dagoretti, Nairobi was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2015. Loise who is 45 years and is married with five children has been struggling to take care of her family ever since as she had to stop working as a house help for a living. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Loise to establish a shop from which she is able to get a steady income to cater for her needs and that of her family.
Loise Wambui Kimani

Below is Loise’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

“I used to work as a house-help and used to be paid Ksh 6,000 (USD 60) per month which helped me cater for my children’s needs. When I was diagnosed with cancer I continued working but had to stop as I could not cope with the work load,” Loise explains. 

“I heard that anyone with cancer dies. I imagined I would die. I was in shock. I told my friends I had cancer but most of them told me when you have cancer you don’t live for long that someone just dies. I thought my life had come to an end,” Loise says. 

Rejected by community and life becomes hard:

“People around me rejected me and thought I would infect them with cancer,” Loise says with sadness. 

“I eventually had my uterus removed and started radiotherapy in January 2016. When I came back home from the hospital, life became very hard. My husband became the sole breadwinner unlike before when we used to help each other. Our combined income used to help sustain the family,” she adds.

Loise empowered and is now a victor:

Merck through “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Loise establish a shop which is giving her a steady income and enabling her to take care of her family’s needs.


 “Merck has been very helpful because they have opened a shop for me and I am already enjoying the benefits. This shop is helping me to bring up my children and now I am able to help my husband,” Loise says with a smile. 

“I would like Merck to continue helping other cancer survivors because the disease is financially draining and when Merck comes in to help the burden becomes lighter. I thank them because they have done great things and God bless them very much. I am doing well, I am healed and I am a victor,” she says.

“Merck More than a Patient initiative aims to empower women cancer survivors by helping them to establish a small business in order to generate a steady income to cater for their needs and enable them to re-build their lives,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare. 
 

Until we see each other again, 


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How to Lose the Baby Weight Fast

My baby just turned one month and I’ve never felt sexier. I’m still far from my pre-pregnancy weight but my tummy is almost flat and I feel healthy. Being my second baby, I followed the tips and tricks I learned with my first and dropping the pounds has been easier this time round. In this post I’ll discuss the tips I’ve found the most effective on how to lose the baby weight fast. 




Gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy


If you’re a woman with a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, you should gain between 10 and 15 kilograms during pregnancy. Aim to gain a little less if you started out overweight or a little more than this if you are underweight. The less weight you gain, the higher your chance of shedding it all after delivering your baby.

To ensure that you gain a healthy amount of weight, forget the myth that claims you are eating for two. Your appetite may increase in the second and the third trimester, but your body only needs 300 to 500 extra calories a day and nothing more. Control the amount you take in by eating filling and healthy snacks in between meals. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber and therefore very filling. Remember also to drink lots of water.

Postpartum Belly band

Use Postpartum belts to flatten the belly


The hardest part of the body to lose weight postpartum is the mid-section. Immediately after delivery, a new mom looks like she’s still 5 or 6 months pregnant. Our moms would tighten a leso around their tummies to help it shrink faster. These days, there are different designs of postpartum belly bands and pants that help to do the same while providing the back with the much needed support. If you have a CS scar, look for a belt made specifically for moms who have gone through CS. In most cases, you can wear the belt a few hours after delivery.

For best results, ensure that you wear it day and night for at least a month. I’ve used different types and they work like magic. You can read a review here or buy one here.

Breastfeed constantly while eating healthy


One of the most effective methods of doing away with the pregnancy weight is to breastfeed. Milk production consumes about 500 calories a day. The problem is, nursing moms have huge appetites and this can actually work against them. The important thing to remember is that just like while pregnant, you need not eat for two. An extra light meal and lots of water will do.

Try to avoid unhealthy meals that are full of fats and sugar and do away with soft drinks and juices. If you are disciplined enough to eat right, you’ll find that breastfeeding is a fat-burning exercise.

Do Core exercises


Just after delivery, it is not possible to work out. Not only is it not safe, you also don’t have the energy or the time. There is however an exercise that I love so much, and that can be done just hours after delivery. It is known as the stomach vacuum and is very effective. Read more about stomach vacuum here.

Basically, what you do is start out while seated, lying down or on all fours. Take a deep breath and as you breathe out, contract your stomach muscles pulling your navel as far back towards your spine as possible. Hold that position for as long as you can while breathing normally. Repeat. The thing I like the most about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere and anytime. It also helps that it is one of the most effective ways of building the core muscles and getting a flat tummy.

Once your doctor has cleared you for more intensive workouts, you can do crunches, sit-ups or just use a tummy trimmer to do other exercises. 

A tummy trimmer can help you with a number of core exercises.


Start as early as now


We mostly make the mistake of letting ourselves go until it is too late. Studies have shown that if you do not lose most of the baby weight before your baby turns 6 months, you probably won’t; at least not without a fight. All the methods we’ve outlined above work, but you have to start as soon as possible.

If you are about to embark on a pre-baby body journey, I have compiled an EBook on How toLose the Baby Weight Right Now. Leave your name and email address and I’ll email it to you for free by following the link or clicking on the book cover below. 
http://modernmomhq.us14.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=dc42f550057ce6237e68f61ca&id=e3dbd2208c


Until we see each other again, 


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She's One Month Old!

The last time I posted I was in my last week of pregnancy. I gave birth 3 days before my EDD on 15th August to a beautifully, curly haired girl. I now have 2 girls, yay!

We've been having the greatest time getting to know her and we fall in love more each day. My older girl is especially completely obsessed!

She turned a month yesterday and the last 2 days she's finally showing her true colors (I hope not); while she was a really cool kid before, she's turned naughty and refuses to sleep at night.

I feel like a zombie as I type this due to sleep deprivation. I'm praying that this is a phase that will pass soon. I'm so pissed at her but with all the cuteness, it's hard to stay angry for long :-)

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I did not add as much weight as I did with my first pregnancy. I therefore feel that I'll have an easier time bouncing back once I'm completely healed and working towards it. For now I'll continue drinking lots of porridge like I've been doing the last month.

I'll be more active on the blog when I'm finally up to it, for now enjoy your weekend, stay cool and smile. :-D :-D
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“Merck More than a Mother” high level panel calls for action to improve access to regulated fertility care and empowering infertile women in Africa

  •  “Empowering Berna” Project to support infertile women in Africa
  • Supporting governments in defining policies to regulate fertility care in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria
  • Providing comprehensive training for African embryologists
 
“Merck More than a Mother’s” efforts received big support in Finland from a high level panel of ministers, parliamentarians, academia, International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), African Fertility Society and global fertility experts who called for action to improve access to regulated fertility care and empower infertile women in Africa through access to information, health and change of mindset. 

Click here to watch this video for a summary of the high level panel to improve access to regulated fertility care and empowering infertile women in Africa

During the event that was held in Finland, a productive dialogue started to address the different angles of “Merck More than a Mother” initiative by the high level panel.

The panel included, Dr. Belen Garijo, Member of Executive Board and CEO of Merck Healthcare; H.E. Sarah Opendi, the Minister of Health, Uganda; H.E. Betty Amongi, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association; Hon. Senator Dr Lanre Tejuoso, Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, Nigeria; Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Prof. Joe Simpson, President of IFFS; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society-Nigeria, Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo, Vice President of Africa Fertility Society-Uganda; Dr. Ivans Sini, Director of Indonesian Reproductive Sciences Institute (IRSI); Dr. Karim Bendhaou, President of North and West Africa, Merck Healthcare and Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Group discussion before the start of the panel


All the panel members agreed that “Merck More than a Mother” addressed successfully most if not all the angles relevant to infertility in Africa, such as  creating a culture shift to respect and appreciate infertile women in Africa; raising awareness about infertility prevention and management and male infertility by integrating it into healthcare infrastructure such as HIV, maternal health and mother and child programs; education and training for African embryologists since lack of trained and skilled staff is a big challenge; defining ART policies to improve access to regulated fertility care; building advocacy and open dialogue with governments, policy makers, parliaments, healthcare providers and media; and empowering infertile women through access to awareness, health and change of mindset and empowering women who can no longer get pregnant by starting a small business for them to build their independent and happier lives through “Empowering Berna“ project.

Dr. Belen Garijo (centre), Member of Executive Board and CEO of Merck Healthcare with   Hon. Senator Dr. Lanre Tejuoso (left), Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria; H.E. Betty Amongi, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association; H.E. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; and Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya

Dr. Belen Garijo, Member of Executive Board and CEO of Merck Healthcare emphasized: “Countless women in Africa face fear, abuse and discrimination every day simply because they are infertile. Providing access to infertility care is important, but it is even more important to intervene to decrease stigmatization and social suffering arising from this condition.” 

“Most women in the rural areas don’t know that the problem of infertility can actually be managed for many of them. Since we launched “Merck More than a Mother” in Uganda we have been trying as a country to integrate fertility care services and awareness about prevention, management and male infertility into the already existing reproductive healthcare services which will be cost effective as the infrastructure is already there,” said H.E. Sarah Opendi, the Minister of Health, Uganda.
 

H.E Betty Amongi (centre), Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association with Hon. Senator Dr. Lanre Tejuoso (left), Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria; and  Dr. Belen Garijo, Member of Executive Board and CEO of Merck Healthcare

“In Africa, the issue of infertility is embedded in culture and also the wealth of most African countries is embedded in land and property. Therefore, culturally a girl child or a woman inherits from where she is married and when you don’t give birth you are supposed to go back to your home and when you do, you cannot inherit any property or land because your brothers and their children are the ones entitled to it,” explained H.E. Betty Amongi, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association.



“This leads to economic exclusion for infertile women. In Uganda, we are working on enforcing the law where women will equally inherit from their blood family so that they become independent and have the power of choice over their lives which will also help empowering infertile women in Uganda,” Hon. Amongi added. 



“In Nigeria, when there is infertility men believe that the woman is the problem. As a parliamentarian I will make sure that the “Merck More than a Mother” initiative will go everywhere including churches and mosques where people go for prayer when there is infertility so that the religious leaders can tell people to go for screening to determine if there is a medical problem first,” emphasized Hon. Senator Dr. Lanre Tejuoso, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria.



“We are looking forward to welcoming Merck in Nigeria to launch the “Merck More than a Mother” later in the year and I am happy to be the initiative’s only man ambassador. I will also introduce the ART bill in parliament so that we also join Kenya in having regulation in place,” he added.



The event also marked the kick-off of the “Empowering Berna” Project and the Merck Africa Embryologists Training Program.



Among the infertile women who have benefited from the “Empowering Berna” Project include:


Grace Kambini from Kibera, Kenya:

She is now able to stand on her own feet after “Merck More than a Mother” helped her build a small local kitchen and cafeteria from where she cooks and sells food. 

“My suffering and stressful life is over now I am a new person. I can now walk with my head up knowing that I have a great business that will sustain me. I am very happy with this program and I wish that Merck can continue helping many other desperate people in this world,” says Grace. 

 
Watch the story of empowering Grace here. 


Noonkipa Mpalush also from Kenya:


She has been provided with two cows to enable her become a productive member of society. Each of the cows is able to produce six liters of milk per day. From this she is able to earn about USD 6 from the sale of the milk every day.


“But now my life has changed with the help of Merck, I am happy and proud because I can support myself. Now I am more than a mother”, says Noonkipa with a beaming smile."


Watch the story of empowering Noonkipa here.


Berna Amullen from Uganda:


She is now more independent and happier after “Merck More than a Mother” helped her establish a poultry project that now enables her to have a steady income to support herself. She has also been provided with the training needed to run and sustain her chicken business.



“I am so delighted, I used to be useless and laughed at in this community. Nobody cared about me when I was sick. I am now happy, I am strong. I have strength all over my body,” Berna says while dancing with her neighbors.

Watch the story of empowering Berna here.

Chinelo Azodo from Nigeria:

She has been empowered to start a restaurant where she can be able to earn about US$ 120 per month. Previously, Chinelo who is not only childless but also a widow was earning less than US$30 per month from providing tailoring services.

Chinelo says: “Before this I used to walk around stitching peoples’ torn clothes with my sewing machine. But now with the restaurant I can now take good care of myself. People say my food is delicious, I have earned their respect because of Merck, and they no longer insult me. I can now earn a better living and also save money towards adopting a child. I am a very happy woman I dance all the time.”

Watch the story of empowering Chinelo here.

“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 own lives, a woman is more than a mother, Empowering Berna initiative will prove this every day,” Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare emphasized.  


Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson (centre), President International Federation of Fertility Societies with Dr. Rasha Kelej (left), Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President Africa Fertility Society

“At IFFS we don’t only look at the success rate but we also look at guidelines, regulations and what prevents the success of fertility therapy. We also have basic trainings which we have in developing parts of the world on what any physician or health provider can do to determine there is infertility. We will work with “Merck More than a Mother” on this,” Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson, President International Federation of Fertility Societies said.



“The “Merck More than a Mother” initiative will energize my team to speed up in finding solutions to train and employ community based officers to provide essential primary healthcare at the village level,” said Dr. Karim Bendhaou, President of North and West Africa, Merck Healthcare. 




Dr. Karim Bendhaou (centre), President, North and West Africa, Merck Healthcare; with Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo (extreme left), Vice President, Africa Fertility Society; Dr. Ivans Sini, Director, Indonesian Reproductive Sciences Institute; Hon. Senator Dr. Lanre Tejuoso, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Federal Republic of Nigeria; and H.E. Betty Amongi, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association

During the panel, the Merck Africa Embryologists Training Program was discussed. The aim of this comprehensive three months training program is to   improve access to quality and safe fertility care across the continent. The training of African embryologists through “Merck More than a Mother” has already started in Indonesia at the Indonesian Reproductive Science Institute (IRSI) with two participants: Emmanuel Okullo from Uganda and Pauline Kibui from Kenya.

“It has been very exciting being here for the training. It has answered most of the questions I had on embryology and also cemented my knowledge,” says Pauline Kibui.

“We are excited to take the knowledge we have acquired here back home to our countries,” sums up Emmanuel Okullo about the training.

Watch this video as Dr. Ivan Sini, Director of IRSI highlights the focus areas of the embryology training and as trainees Kibui and Okullo share their experience.


 
Until we see each other again, 



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9 Months Pregnant



Baby bump at 9 months pregnant

I am 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant today. It’s still hard to believe that I’m in the last week of pregnancy. With 6 days to go, I am having Braxton hicks/ false labor almost every day.

Tuesday and Wednesday gave me a scare and I was almost convinced that I was going into true labor. I was however hopeful that  the baby would sit tight for just one more day as I really wanted to attend my daughter’s parents day in school on Thursday. I’ve been dying to know how she is in school, and the thought of meeting and speaking with her teacher excited me more than anything else.

 ‘She’s a good girl, very hardworking and extremely confident,’ the teacher gushed. I expected to hear nothing less, but the confident part made me very happy. A woman can never be too confident. I’m just glad I’m raisin a girl with a healthy self esteem.

It’s been very cold lately and I’m starting to think that this is probably one of the worst times of the year to give birth. I cannot begin to imagine how terrible it would be to deliver in this cold, but the good thing is that by the time we are ready to be up and about, the sun will be back, the cedar swingsets will be out, and the pools will be ready for us.

I’m looking forward to labor, meeting and finding out the sex of my baby, and to doing away with all the pains and weight. This pregnancy has definitely taken a toll on my body and I cannot wait to pay it back with a little loving in form of  work-outs.

I’ll conclude the pregnancy posts with this image of the third trimester baby bumps.

Third trimester baby bumps

It’s my prayer that you’ve enjoyed the monthly pregnancy posts, and if pregnant, I hope I gave you companionship along the way. Thank you so much for your continued support and for always coming back for more.

Please pray for my family and I as we transition to the next chapter and as always, I’ll keep you updated.

Much love.

Until we see each other again, 


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“Merck More than a Mother” Supports Jackline Mwende - a Victim of Infertility Stigma in Kenya

  • Through “Empowering Berna” Project, Merck aims to empower infertile women economically and socially across Africa. 
  • Jackline Mwende was brutally slashed at her home in Masii, Machakos County, Kenya for failing to conceive after seven years of marriage. 


‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative will support Jackline Mwende, the recent victim of infertility stigma, throughout the rest of her life after having her hands chopped off for failing to bear children. Merck aims to empower infertile women across the continent through access to information, health and change of mind-set through their initiative that been launched in June 2015 ‘More than a Mother.’

“Jackline Mwende, a young woman of 27 years from Machakos County in Kenya whose both hands were chopped off - not by thieves but by her own husband for failing to bear children. It is so shocking that someone would go to such an extent to batter his own wife and leave her nearly dead. Infertility should never be a reason to separate, hurt or kill your partner. There are so many options out there available to manage infertility” said Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament and the Ambassador for ‘Merck More than a Mother’ in Kenya.

“Through -Empowering Berna- project, Merck will support Jackline Mwende throughout the rest of her life to empower and enable her to become an independent productive member in society. ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative will provide Mwende with a monthly income of $250, then will establish a business for her in which she will be able to generate a sustainable monthly income of not less than $250. At the same time Merck will provide her with the needed physical and physiological rehabilitation to enable her to support herself and stand on her own two feet despite the challenge of her brutal disability that was caused by the stigma of infertility – even though her husband is the one who was found with the infertility problem, yet she is still the one who bore the devastating consequences of the public stigma associated with it." Said Rasha Kelej – Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.


“Mwende didn't deserve what she went through and especially that her husband is the one who was found with the infertility problem and not her. Society, government and all stakeholders need to continue to join hands with Merck in their campaign to encourage the acceptance people live with infertility because the stigma associated with infertility puts pressure on them to a point where they do crazy and criminal things. We need to know that it's a shared responsibility, not just for the couple but for the society too,” Hon. Joyce Lay added.


"Jackline Mwende's story is the reason all people should appreciate ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative. No sane person should torture a woman for failing to produce children. Men should not think that their failure to be a biological father is due to women's infertility. Why torture a fellow human being and inflict such permanent bodily harm for a fault that could be yours? No amount of justice in the courts of law will bring back Mwende’s arms. Justice will only prevail if Mwende’s case marks a turning point in society that appreciates one fact- "that women are women irrespective of their ability to bear children. They need to be respected," emphasized Hon. Sarah Opendi, Ugandan Minister of State of Health and Uganda ambassador of ‘Merck more than a Mother.’



"This terrible violence Mwende suffered emphasized the significance of ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative for Africa. ‘Merck More than a Mother’ will continue working closely with partners to create a culture shift and to empower infertile women economically and socially through "Empowering Berna" Project to ensure no other woman in Africa should ever go through such violence, humiliation or misery again," Rasha Kelej – Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare emphasized.

About “Merck more than a Mother” initiative: In many cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. Infertility can transform from an acute, private distress into a harsh public stigma with complex and devastating consequences. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This may result in divorce or physical and psychological violence. “Merck More than a Mother” initiative aims to define interventions to reduce the stigma and social suffering of infertile women, empower them and raise awareness about male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples across the continent.

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. For instance, poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, consequences of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) or child marriage, exposure to smoking, leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants can lead to infertility.

About “Empowering Berna” Project “It is very important to empower infertile women through improving access to awareness, health and change of mind-set 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 own lives, a woman is more than a mother, ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative will prove this every day.” Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare.

To watch the transformation of childless women after meeting “Merck more than a Mother” please watch videos below:

Stories of four infertile women who have been supported through the “Empowering Berna” Project:

The harrowing story of Jackeline Mwende, a victim of infertility Stigma in Africa:

Jackline Mwende Munywoki from Machakos, Kenya is the recent victim of the brutal physical and psychological assault that women in Africa face as a result of being infertile and are unable to bear children even when they are not the ones with the problem. She recently had her hands chopped off by her husband of five years for not conceiving and giving birth. Jackline Mwende who says she had a stable upbringing, in a loving home where she grew up with six of her siblings narrates how she came to lose her hands because of not being able to have children in her marriage.

Her parents did their best to take her to school from kindergarten up to primary school class 8. Upon completing her studies, Mwende enrolled in a tailoring school where she learnt how to sew and make garments. It was at this school that she met and fell in love with Stephen Ngila – her husband. They got married in 2011.

“A year into the marriage and with no child, I began to notice changes in my husband. He had picked up bad habits such as drinking alcohol and started to become abusive. It was at this point that I confided in my parents, who were also wondering why I had not become pregnant yet. They advised me to leave the marriage since it was becoming abusive,” Mwende narrates. “As an avid church goer, I also sought advice from my pastor,” she adds. Even at the start of the violence in the marriage, both she and Ngila would go to seek counseling from him. The pastor advised both of them to live in harmony; however, Ngila ignored. The pastor advised her to stay with her husband, of which she tried as long as she could.

Both Mwende and Ngila went to hospital for diagnosis. It was confirmed that Ngila- the husband- was infertile. “I constantly pleaded with Ngila to go to hospital to seek a treatment for his infertility, but he always made up excuses. He would say that he would go after work but never did,” she says sadly.

Their marriage continued to get strained and the abuse increased because Mwende had not borne a child. On several occasions, the couple wound up at the police station due to their fights and arguments. The couple eventually separated and Mwende set up her own small shop from where she was getting some income to support herself and even her parents.

On August 1st 2016 in the evening, Mwende was peacefully eating her dinner when she heard a knock on the door. When she went to open the door, Ngina who was drunk started to attack her with a panga (machete) and cut off her left hand. In shock, Mwende collapsed on the floor while Ngina continued to hit her with the machete on her face, and cut off her other right hand.

“Today you have decided to kill me?” Mwende recalls screaming at Ngila. His intent was to kill her, but she continued screaming until her neighbors came to her rescue and Ngila escaped. She was taken to the hospital for treatment and she is currently on medication and nursing her wounds – which will always be a constant reminder that the reason she is in the state she is now is because she never bore any children.

“If it is God’s will that I do not have a child, I am content with this,” Mwende bravely said. She is hopeful for her future and grateful for all the support the community has given her. She would not like any other couple to go through what she has experienced and advises couples to seek solutions together if they cannot have a child, and visit the hospital for check-ups regularly.


Until we see each other again, 


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