Malawi: First Lady Commits to Fight Infertility Stigma in Malawi As 'Merck More Than a Mother' Ambassador

Infertility affects women and men equally, experts say.
28 October 2020

First Lady Monica Chakwera, who has been appointed as ambassador for the Merck Foundation's 'Merck More Than a Mother' initiative whose purpose is to build healthcare capacity and strengthen the response to COVID-19 in Africa, has stressed the need to amplify access to information, education and health in sensitising communities, especiall in rural areas, to understand infertility and break the stigma around barren women.

The First Lady said this on Monday from Lilongwe during a Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) which was attended by 13 African First Ladies to discuss their joint efforts to build healthcare capacity and strengthen the response to COVID-19 in the country and Africa at large.

According to a statement released by Merck Foundation, the First Lady and the Ministry of Health have entered a long-term relationship with the Foundation to empower infertile women through the 'Merck More Than a Mother' initiative.

The statement said the partnership will provide specialty training to Malawian doctors in various fields such as Oncology, Diabetes, Fertility, Embryology, Respiratory Care, Acute Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines to transform public healthcare sector in Malawi.

"Merck Foundation will enroll the selected Malawian doctors by the First Lady office and Ministry of Health to their various training programs for the next 10 years," reads the statement.

In her acceptance remarks, Chakwera said she was happy to be appointed ambassador for the campaign and said would fully support it.

She said: "As a woman, this cause is very close to my heart. I will work in collaboration with our ministries to sensitize our communities, particularly in rural areas to better understand infertility hence to break the stigma around infertile women and to empower them through access to information, education, health, and change of mindset.

"Moreover, I am looking forward to building healthcare capacity in the country, through the programs of Merck Foundation, as it will contribute to the social and economic development of Malawi."

Merck Foundation chief executive, Rasha Kelej, and President of Merck More Than a Mother said they were happy to partner with the First Lady of Malawi.

"Our long-term commitment is to build healthcare capacity, empower girls in education and break the stigma of infertility in Malawi. We are also very proud to appoint The First Lady of Malawi as the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother. We are going to work very closely with her and the Government of Malawi to make history together by providing training for the First Specialists in many fields such as Fertility, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Oncology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Respiratory and Acute Medicines with the aim to improve access to quality and equitable health care in the country," said Kelej.

According to the statement, Merck Foundation will continue their important program "Educating Linda" together with Malawi First Lady to sponsor the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools till they graduate.

"I truly believe that Education is Power and educating girls is empowering them to make their own decisions, stand up for their rights, and help them to access economic opportunities," said Kelej, one of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019, 2020).

Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) conducted their first Video Conference (VC) Summit to define and follow up on different joint programs that aim to advance public healthcare sector capacity and strengthen the response to COVID 19 in their countries.

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