11 November 2017

Africa: First Ladies Pledge to Barren Women

Five African first ladies have pledged to fight stigma associated with childlessness.

The Central African Republic, the Gambia, Chad, Niger and Guinea first ladies said they were committed to a long term partnership with Merck Foundation's More Than A Mother drive to implement fertility and cancer access programmes.

They will be assisted by Ugandan, Ethiopian and Sierra Leonean health ministers.

Merck More Than A Mother campaign aims at empowering barren women through access to information, education and changing society mindset.

The foundation also supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care.

Its programmes cover Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia and Core d'ivoire.

Merck Foundation CEO and founder of the campaign Rasha Kelej said governments would be brought on board now that first ladies had accepted to be ambassadors of the programme.

"Merck More Than A Mother has initiated a cultural shift to destigmatise infertility by supporting the women start small businesses. It is about giving every woman the respect and help she deserves," she said.

During Merck Africa Asia Luminary Conference in Cairo, Egypt, Kelej played a video of a Kenyan woman whose hands were chopped off by her husband for not bearing children.

Chadian First Lady Hinda Deby Itno said she was willing to lead the campaign.

"We are discussing the execution of training programmes for fertility specialists in my country which will contribute to helping couples to find solutions to their problems," she said.

Guinea First Lady Djene Kaba Condé said she was involved in community awareness drives back home.

"I welcome this noble cause to save women from discrimination and mistreatment," she told the gathering.

Central African Republic's Brigitte Touadera said she would continue with what she started last year. She received an award from Merck Foundation for her role as ambassador for More Than A Mother campaign in 2016 and 2017.

The conference was attended by more than 450 healthcare providers, policy makers and researchers from Africa and Asia.


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