Merck Foundation CEO Advocates for Education to End Female Genital Mutilation in Africa and Beyond

Business Wire India
Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation 2022 as a part of the Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” and “Educating Linda” program. 
Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” campaign emphasized on the observance of this important day, “Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a deep-rooted social norm for girls and women in many cultures in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America, it denies them their dignity, endangers their health and causes needless pain and suffering and many serious complications that they are forced to live with the rest of their lives such as; Infertility, infections, stillborn babies and in some cases, can also lead to death.”

The UN estimates that 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone FGM, with 80% of cases occurring in Africa alone. Most of the girls who have undergone this practice are below 15 years of age.

“Taking into account this dire situation, I strongly believe that raising awareness, advocacy building, and girl education are the keys to eradicating this practice. It is all about improving access to information, health and change of mindset to have zero tolerance to FGM. FGM has no health benefit, in fact, it only harms women and girls physically and psychologically,” Senator, Rasha Kelej emphasized.

According to the UN data, the world over 1 in 4 women have undergone female genital mutilation, this is close to 52 million women world over. Merck Foundation supports the UN’s cause of putting an end to the practice of FGM by 2030.

“I truly believe that Education is Power and educating girls is empowering them to make their own decisions in the future when they become strong women. It will enable them to access to information, health and economic opportunities, and stand up for their rights for themselves and their families thus, helping them to save their girls and preventing issues like Female Genital Mutilation even if it is too late for them.
This International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation we, at Merck Foundation would like to encourage everyone to work closely together to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation from our communities. We have to work together to create a culture shift to stop this meaningless practice,” emphasized Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation aims to raise awareness about violence against females, empower girls and women through education to bring in a culture shift through media, art, and fashion.
“Merck Foundation is continuing its efforts of raising awareness against sensitive issues such as FGM through Our African community of Art and Fashion with Purpose. We will soon be launching ‘Our Africa’, a television program that is set to be the voice of the voiceless and break the silence about many social and health issues in Africa and create a culture shift together. I strongly believe that fashion and art should have a purpose beyond entertainment. They can contribute to sensitizing our communities about different social and health issues such as ending FGM, ending child marriage, stopping GBV, breaking Infertility stigma, supporting girl education, and more,” added Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.
As a part of the Merck Foundation Educating Linda program, Merck Foundation helps young girls who are unprivileged but brilliant to continue their education. The spirit of the project is to provide an opportunity for such girls to pursue their dreams and reach their potential through access to education.

Merck Foundation has also introduced and launched interesting storybooks for children to teach them the values of respecting women and underline the importance of girls’ education.
1) To read Educating Linda Storybook, pls visit:
2) To read Jackline’s Rescue Storybook, pls visit:
3) To read Ride into the Future Storybook, pls visit:
Moreover, Merck Foundation has also released many inspiring songs on women empowerment supporting girls’ education.

1. Watch, share & subscribe to the “Girl Can” song here, sung by two famous singers, Irene and Cwezi from Liberia and Ghana respectively:
In this song, two girls are portrayed, one uneducated and therefore powerless to fight injustices and another who has gone to school and fought for her due rights to live a happy life.
2. Watch share & subscribe: “Tu Podes Sim” Portuguese song, which means “Yes, You Can” in English, here, sung by two famous singers, Hot Blaze and Tamyris Moiane, talented singers from Mozambique 
The song narrates the story of a young underprivileged girl who struggles through many hardships to complete her education and eventually succeeds in obtaining a good education and having a successful career.  
About ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ campaign
“Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe, effective and equitable fertility care solutions. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

The Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” are:

The First Lady of Botswana

H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo

H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique

H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso

H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia

H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia

H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi

H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana

H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria

H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic

H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia

H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone

H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville

H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi

H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe

The Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady of Chad, H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, The Former First Lady of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The Former First Lady of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU and The Former First Lady of Zambia, H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The Former First Lady of Guinea Conakry, H.E. CONDÉ DJENE have worked successfully with Merck Foundation as Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Ambassadors to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries.

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck Foundation More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as;

  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Africa Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Film Awards
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Song Awards
  • Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
  • Children storybook, localized for each country