“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
|Group discussion before the start of the panel|
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.
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.
“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.
Until we see each other again,