Merck Foundation partners First lady in fighting infertility stigma

Lilongwe, Merck Foundation in partnership with First Lady of the Republic of Malawi, Madame Gertrude Mutharika and Ministries of Health, Information, Education and Gender on Tuesday launched programs that would build equitable health care capacity.

Speaking during the launch of the programs, Madame Mutharika who is Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother, an initiative aimed at ending stigma and discrimination to couples who do not have children, said health is very critical to social and economic development hence the need to build adequate capacity in health care.

She observed that the programs would prove very significant in creating an impact on people’s advancement.

Apart from building capacity, the programs will also help break the stigma of infertility across the country which the first lady said is very critical.

We are happy that Merck Foundation understands our culture and working closely with the Chief Executive Officer of Merck adds value to the success of the programs since she is coming from a similar background, she said.

She said the launch of the Merck More Than a Mother initiative is a step in the positive direction as those affected will not feel liberated.

Madame Mutharika said infertility has been there for ages and it is a woman who is blamed for not having children yet men too can be infertile.

The cultural pressure to bear children is so huge amongst us. Society doesn’t respect a woman or man without children. This has to stop. All of us should end infertility stigma. It is possible to deal with the challenges of infertility, she said.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Merck Foundation and President of Merck More Than a Mother Mother, Dr Rasha Kelej underscored the importance of a long term partnership with the Malawi First Lady to build health care capacity in the country.

In partnership with the Malawi Government, the initiative will see Malawian doctors being trained in the field of diabetes, fertility and cancer with an aim of improving the health and wellbeing of people.

During the launch of the programs, Merck Foundation together with Madame Mutharika and the Ministry of Education also launched an inspiring children story of Limbani and Takondwa.

The aim of this story is to emphasize strong family values of love and respect from a young age which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and resulting domestic violence in future.

The story of Limbani and Takondwa is a story of a husband and wife who could not have children but they never lost love or respect for each other.

The man supported the wife during the fertility treatment journey and acknowledged that he can be the cause of infertility and lived happily ever after.

It is important for parents and caregivers to start teaching their children respect and nurturing empathy at a very young age. We should teach boys these qualities at their schools and through media. I believe both boys and girls need the same kind of guidance, said Kelej.

Merck Foundation also plans to introduce other initiatives to create the desired culture shift with regards to breaking the stigma around infertility.

The initiatives include Merck More Than a Mother Media recognition awards, the Health Media Training, creating songs with local artists to address stigma related infertility and educate people across the country and the Merck More Than a Mother Fashion Awards.

In partnership with Ministry of Health, Merck Foundation will be providing clinical training on fertility speciality in order to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care in the country.

The More Than a Mother initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health by changing mindsets. It supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care.

With More Than a Mother, Merck has initiated a cultural shift to destigimatise infertility at all levels by improving awareness, training the skills of local experts and building advocacy in cooperation with decision makers.

Source: MANA Online