Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA Germany, in partnership with Africa Reproductive Care society (ARCS) conducted their first Joint Annual Summit 2022. The Summit was co-chaired by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of “More Than a Mother” Campaign, and also appointed as the Chairperson of “African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS)” and Prof. Oladapo Ashiru OFR, President of “African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS)”, and President of The Nigerian Academy of Medicine Specialties. During the summit, ARCS announced the free membership for all Merck Foundation Alumni and partners from healthcare providers, Media, Artists, Policy Makers, Medical Societies, Academia and Community Leaders and members who attended this annual summit online, with the aim to emphasize their important role in creating a culture shift to break Infertility Stigma and Empower Infertile and Childless Women & Couples through access to information, education, health, change of mindset, moreover improve access to quality and equitable women healthcare and better reproductive and fertility care across the continent.
Speaking about the success of their first joint summit, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) emphasized, “Our joint summit was conducted under the umbrella of Merck Foundation’s “More Than a Mother” Campaign and has been an effort towards initiating a multi-sectorial approach towards sensitizing communities to end the stigma associated with infertility and empower infertile women & couples through access to information, education, health and change of mindset.”
Dr. Kelej added, “We are very happy to conduct our first joint annual summit 2022 with an important and inclusive Society like Africa Reproductive Care Society. I’m proud that our first summit was a great success, and we had the Ministers of Health, Child Care, Gender, Social Welfare and Population from various African Countries, attending as a panelist. Moreover, we had more than 500 participants including Merck Foundation partners and Alumni who are future Fertility Specialists, Reproductive and Sexual Care Specialists, and Embryologists, Healthcare Providers, Policy Makers, Media Professionals, Artists, Fashion Designers, Community Leaders from 47 countries in Africa and beyond.”
Prof. Oladapo Ashiru OFR, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) said, “I am proud to partner with Merck Foundation, one of the most influential foundations of the continent. Africa carries a high burden of reproductive ill-health, among these, infertility has been a relatively neglected problem for many years. Our first virtual summit focused on these points, and we pledge to work with Merck Foundation to eradicate this stigma and build the needed women’s healthcare capacity including reproductive & sexual care and fertility care throughout the continent. I am confident about the impactful programs of Merck Foundation that are already contributed to raising awareness and building fertility and reproductive care capacity in Africa. I also thank Merck Foundation CEO, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej for her support and innovative ideas for Merck Foundation’s iconic ‘More Than a Mother’ Campaign. We look forward to enriching this partnership and achieving many milestones in Africa.”
The objectives of the Summit were:
- To discuss a multi-sectorial approach to sensitize our communities to end Infertility stigma and empower infertile women and couples through access to information, education, health, and change of mindset
- To discuss the challenges and define solutions to improve access to quality and equitable Infertility care via building Fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries
- To highlight Preventive care in Reproductive Medicine
- To raise Awareness about Male Infertility
- To discuss Climate Change and Toxin Environmental Exposures (C2TE2) leading to infertility
The Summit collectively concluded that in addition to prioritizing the social and cultural dimension of Infertility, Infertility Prevention and generating Infertility Awareness, engaging and facilitating dialogue amongst communities to raise awareness to eradicate the stigma associated with infertility and make them understand that men and women can be equally affected by the medical condition of infertility needs emphasis. ‘It takes a man and a woman to have a child’ and ‘No to Infertility Stigma’ were two important messages that needed to spread through all sectors of our communities, through Media, Art, Fashion, Healthcare Sector, Social Groups and more.
The summit was conducted under Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign, a strong movement that aims to empower infertile and childless women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports in defining policies and interventions to build quality and equitable Reproductive and Fertility care capacity, Break Infertility Stigma and raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility.
“I am happy to share that Merck Foundation has provided more than 370 scholarships to doctors from 37 countries, with the aim to advance women’s health by building Reproductive & Sexual care and Fertility Care Capacity in Africa and beyond. Moreover, we have trained more than 2000 media representatives from more than 30 countries to raise community awareness, creating a culture shift and breaking the stigma around infertility and infertile and childless women. We have worked with local singers, filmmakers, media partners and fashion designers through our various initiatives like Songs, videos and short films, Children’s Storybooks, in addition to four different Media, Song, Film and Fashion Awards, and also a TV Show with the aim to raise awareness and break the stigma of infertility and be the voice of the voiceless,” emphasized Dr. Kelej.