Merck marks “International Women’s Day” with the launch of "More than a Mother” Campaign and “STEM program for Women and Girls” for the first time in Liberia

  • Merck celebrates International Women’s Day with Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia
  • Merck More than a Mother” campaign for the first time in Liberia in partnership with Ministry of Gender and Ministry of Health
  • Merck marks the International Women‘s Day“ with the launch of their STEM program for Liberian women and girls.

“Merck More than a Mother” will empower infertile women in Liberia through improving access to information, health, change of mind-set and economic empowerment.

“Merck More than a Mother” was first implemented in Kenya in 2015 followed by Uganda, Nigeria,Tanzania, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Central African Republic in 2016. In Liberia both “Merck More than a Mother” and “Merck STEM” program are   in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

H.E. Madam Ellen Sirleaf, President of Liberia with Dr. Rasha Kelej (right), Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Maria De la Vega (left), former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidency, Kingdom of Spain and Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister for Health and Public Sanitation, Sierra Leone




H.E. Madam Ellen Sirleaf (centre), the President of Liberia and Hon. Julia Cassell, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection with some of the infertile women who have been supported through ‘Merck More than a Mother’s’ ‘Empowering Berna’ Project


HE Madam Ellen Sirleaf (left), President of Liberia, Hon. Julia Cassell (2nd left), Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Liberia and Dr. Rasha Kelej (right), Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare


“Today we are recognizing the International Women’s Day by starting this very critical campaign for Liberia with the aim to empower an under-privileged segment of women. Women who couldn’t bear children and for this they are discriminated and mistreated by their husbands, families and communities. In some cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. This is unacceptable and has to change through our campaign,” said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

“We will also start Merck STEM Program which will contribute towards the social and economic development of Africa through empowering women and girls in the fields of science and technology where they are currently under-represented, starting today with 140 girls at Victoria Tolbert School,”Rasha Kelej added.

The Liberia Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Bernice Dahn emphasized during her speech at the launch: “We are happy to partner with reputable and innovative company such as Merck. We believe that raising awareness about infertility prevention and improving access to regulated and equitable fertility care are very important, but it is even more important to intervene to break the stigma around infertility and infertile women in particular.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare (centre) and Hon. Julia Cassell (left), Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Liberia with infertile women who have been supported through “Merck More than a Mother” ‘Empowering Berna’ Project


Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection emphasized: “In Liberia the infertility rate has increased due to the 40 years of civil conflict where women and girls were raped resulting in traumatic fistulas and the removal of their uterus to save their lives. Over 50% of these women and girls are now infertile. Harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation which is widespread in our country is also a major factor causing infertility as a complication.”

“As a Ministry we have made a decision to collaborate with “Merck More than a Mother” to help these women so that they are not stigmatized and discriminated against just because they are infertile and so that they can be empowered to become productive members of society. We also decided to partner with Merck STEM program to empower our girls in STEM. This program is very important for Liberia and Her Excellency President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is very interested to make this program a great success,” Julia Cassell added.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Hon. Julia Cassell, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Liberia with girls from Victoria Tolbert School that has been equipped with a computer lab through the “Merck STEM Women and Girls” Program to encourage them to study science and technology subjects


To mark International Women’s Day and in recognition of the important role women can play in the economic and social development of Africa, Merck is empowering women and girls  to participate in STEM where they are currently under-represented, through the “Merck STEM Program”.

Merck has inaugurated their initiative at Victoria Tolbert School where they equipped their library with computer and science labs to encourage young girls to study science and technology as part of their “STEM for Girls and Women” in Africa.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare with girls from Victoria Tolbert School that has been equipped with a computer lab through the “Merck STEM Women and Girls” Program to encourage them to study science and technology subjects


STEM Project by Merck is the first external support Vicroria Tolbert School gets since their establishment by Madam President of Liberia for underprivileged and vulnerable girls.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare motivates girls from Victoria Tolbert School that has been equipped with a computer lab through the “Merck STEM Women and Girls” Program to encourage them to study science and technology subjects


About “Merck More than a Mother”

Through ‘Empowering Berna’, “Merck More than a Mother”supports infertile women who can no longer be treated by empowering them socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives. In Liberia, in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Ministry of Health, Merck supported infertile women groups from Westpoint, Liberia to establish small businesses.

Over 1,000 infertile women in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania,Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire who can no longer be treated have been empowered through the“Empowering Berna” project.

“Merck More than a Mother” also provides training programmes for embryologists in Africa to improve access to cost effective fertility care. In addition, it supports governments to define policies to regulate ART, address the need for interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples,” emphasized Rasha Kelej
Watch below video on the stories of infertile women from Liberia before and after they enrolled in “Merck More than a Mother” Program.



Merck More Than a Mother-The Story of Empowering Westpoint Women, Liberia

Merck STEM Program for Girls and Women, Liberia

Merck More Than a Mother with Julia Duncan Cassell - Minister for Gender, Children & Social Protection, Liberia



Watch video below of Ugandan women who are infertile and have been supported to start their own businesses through “Merck More than a Mother’s” Empowering Berna Project.

Merck More Than a Mother with Ugandan Women


About Merck Capacity Advancement Program- Merck CAP

The Merck Capacity Advancement Program (CAP) is a ten-year program aiming to expand professional capacity in developing countries in the areas of research and development, advocacy building, supply-chain integrity and efficiency, pharmaco vigilance, medical education, and community awareness.It was established in 2012.

Merck CAP signature initiatives include the following:Merck Universities Program, Merck Diabetes and Hypertension Awards, Merck Cancer Access Program, Merck More than a Mother and “Merck STEM Program for Girls and Women”.

 Twitter handle: MerckCAP
 Facebook page: Merck Capacity Advancement Program
YouTube Channel: Merck Capacity Advancement Program

“Merck More than a Mother” Strategy and Objectives:

The aim is to empower infertile women in Africa through improving access to information, health, change mind-set and economic empowerment. Please visit to www.merckmorethanamother.com for more information.

  1. Create a culture shift to de-stigmatize infertility and to build respect and understanding around infertile women in Africa.
  2. Raise awareness about infertility prevention management and male infertility by integrating the topics into existing healthcare infrastructure, such as HIV, maternal health, and mother and child programs.
  3. Education and training for African embryologists to build the needed capacity.
  4. Supporting policy makers to define artificial reproductive therapy (ART) policies to improve access to regulated fertility care.
  5. Building advocacy and open dialogue and working closely with governments, policy makers, parliaments, healthcare providers, fertility experts and the media to define interventions that will reduce social suffering and improve access to regulated, effective and safe fertility care in Africa.
  6. Empowering infertile women socially and economically through access to education and healthcare, and by changing mind-sets. For example, empowering women who cannot be treated by helping them to start a small business through the “Empowering Berna"project.

 Twitter handle: MerckandMothers
 Facebook page: Merckmorethanamother
 YouTube: Merck More than a Mother


Merck STEM for Women and Girls:

Through its annual platform UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit, the Merck STEM program aims to empower young and women African researchers in order to prepare for the road ahead in Africa’s development as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation. Furthermore Merck has launched for the first time, “MARS best African Women Researcher Award” to empower women in the fields of Research and healthcare.

Furthermore; Merck empowers and inspires girls to study science and technology through providing Computer and Science labs to girls schools across the continent.

Twitter handle: @Merck_MARS
Facebook page Merck Africa Research Summit 
YouTube ChannelMerck Africa Research Summit


Please visit www.unesco-mars.com for more information.


To read more about Merck Capacity Advancement Program initiatives in Africa, visit   www.merck-cap.com and www.merck-africa.com.

All Merck Press Releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Website. Please go to www.merckgroup.com/subscribe to register online, change your selection or discontinue this service.

About Merck

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 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 2015, Merck generated sales of € 12.85 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, Darmstadt, Germany 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, Millipore Sigma and EMD Performance Materials.



Until we see each other again, 


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