During the Luminary,Dr. Rasha Kelej , CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “I am very proud that many First Ladieshavepartnered with Merck Foundation and accepted to be the Ambassadors of our unique and historic campaign “Merck more than a Mother” to empower infertile womenand eliminate the stigma around infertility in their countries”.

The First Ladies took the pledge during the opening ceremony of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2018.

The pledge was taken by:

H.E. MARIEME FAYE SALL, The First Lady of Senegal along with

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI,The First Lady ofBotswana;

H.E. DENISE NKURUNZIZA,The First Lady of the Republic of Burundi;

H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA,The First Lady ofCentral Africa Republic;

H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO,The First Lady ofChad;

H.E. REBECCA NAA OKAIKOR AKUFO-ADDO,The First Lady ofGhana ;

H.E. AISSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU,The First Lady of Niger;

H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO,The First Lady ofSierra Leoneand

H.E. ESTHER LUNGU,The First Lady ofZambia

The First Ladiesalso discussed the strategy to build healthcare capacity in the fields of cancer, infertility, diabetes and hypertension in their respective countries in partnership with Merck Foundation.

The First Lady ofBotswana,H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, emphasized, “This campaign is very critical for my country and for Africa at large. Iam fully supporting this initiative as the First Lady of Botswana.I firmly believe in the importance toempower infertile women, who are mistreated and discriminated againstin many cultures for not being able to have children and start a family”.

Link to her full speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1T3u_unKGQM&t=392s ( https://bit.ly/2CilDG0 )

The First Lady of the Republic of Burundi,H.E. DENISE NKURUNZIZA emphasized, “Thanks to Merck Foundation for this unique campaign. It is the first time we have an initiative that empowers infertile women and takes care of them”.

Link to her full speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0Wy4mXd5Ak ( https://bit.ly/2GknyhG )

H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA,The First Lady ofCentral Africa Republic said, “I happilyaccepted to be theambassador of Merck More than a Motherin 2016. This isahistoric campaign thatIlaunched with them in my country”.

Link to her full speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYrUq09CifU&t=396s ( https://bit.ly/2rP8sXr )

The First Lady ofChad, H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO said, “Through this platform,together with all other ambassadors we can create a culture shift across Africatoempower childless womenby creating awareness and a cultural shift”.

Link to her speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoHnGN3_ca8&t=179s ( https://bit.ly/2PGnsA9 )

The First Lady ofGhana,H.E.REBECCA NAA OKAIKOR AKUFO-ADDO said, “I along with Rebecca Foundation will work closely with Merck Foundation to empower women and adolescents;we will tell women to value themselves, as they are more than just mothers, they are productive members of the society.”

Link to her speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJGWlcJiAPk&t=199s ( https://bit.ly/2S0A4UU )

The First Lady of Niger, H.E. AISSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU emphasized , “I have also accepted to be “Merck more than a mother”ambassador in Nigerto help raising awareness about infertility prevention, management, maleinfertilityand to break the stigmaaround infertile women to empower them, as they are not just child bearers.”

Link to her speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01kuMu8dGAk&t=318s ( https://bit.ly/2rE3uwp )

The First Lady ofSierra Leone, H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO said, “I have heard and witness the stories of infertile women in my country, the attitude of the people towards these women is not progressive or informed. I am honored to be the Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, through this campaign I intend to help the women of my country”.

Link to her speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VYBY62qt1Q ( https://bit.ly/2S44Ls5 )

The First Lady ofZambia,H.E. ESTHER LUNGU said , “Zambia will launch Merck More than a Mother campaign in the country and I am happy to be their Ambassador.There is a serious need for a cultural shift about infertility and its prevention, we will make this happen”

Link to her speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch? ( https://bit.ly/2LoqcBy )

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Merck Foundation.

Join the conversation on our social media platforms below and let your voice be heard: Facebook: facebook.com/merckfoundation Twitter: bit.ly/2NDqHLR YouTube: bit.ly/2K3ACZp Website: Merck-Foundation.com

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About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign: In many cultures, childless women suffer discrimination, stigma, and ostracism. Their inability to have children results in great isolation, disinheritance, and assaults. “Merck More Than a Mother” empowers such women through the access to information, health, change of mindsets and economic empowerment.

As part of this Campaign, we started “Empowering Berna” project in Africa to help childless and infertile women starting their own business and thus achieve financial independence and become stronger and happier. The project has benefited more than 1,000 women across the continent.

Also, part of the campaign is our Merck Embryology & Fertility Training Program, a three-month hands-on practical course to establish the platform of fertility specialists across Africa and Asia.

Merck Foundation provided for more than 84 candidates, three months to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 29 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire , Ghana, Ethiopia , Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania , Zambia , Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Burkina Fuso, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameron, Rwanda, Botswana, DR Congo , Congo Brazzaville, Gambia , Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, and Guinea.

Merck Foundation plan supported the establishment of the first public IVF centers in Ethiopia and Uganda through providing the clinical and practical training necessary for their staff. Merck Foundation also plans to support the establishment of the first public IVF in Tanzania soon.

“Merck more than a Mother” launched in 2015, is a program of the Merck Foundation, the foundation drives many of our initiatives and programs in the area of build health care and research capacity and improves access to equitable healthcare solutions.

About Merck Foundation: The Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to Merck-Foundation.com to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.

About Merck: Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Almost 53,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2017, Merck generated sales of € 15.3 billion in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma

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