July 27, 2021
Senator Rasha Kelej is the first African woman to be Merck Foundation CEO, one of the world’s most important foundations, who has kept her efforts going for the last ten years.
Rasha Kelej is the brain behind the inspiring ‘More Than A Mother’ campaign – a rallying call against female infertility stigma – for which she was recognized as one of the Most Inﬂuential Africans of 2019 & 2020. The campaign, one of the most successful causes that have been taken forward by Merck Foundation, empowers childless and infertile women through access to information, health, change of mindset, and economic empowerment. More than 20 First Ladies rallied behind the campaign as Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More than a Mother” campaign, which is very impressive.
Hailed from Egypt and based in Dubai, this versatile lady and a style icon is a trailblazer and is influential in changing the perception of how fashion, film, music, and media can be utilized to address sensitive social and health issues such as breaking infertility stigma in Africa. This has been exemplified with the launch of “More Than A Mother’ Fashion, Films, Songs & Media Awards as she strongly believes in the critical role art, media, and fashion play in creating a culture shift, addressing sensitive issues and health matters in our communities.
ENATOR DR. RASHA KELEJ IS A PROLIFIC WOMAN AND HEALTH RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER:
Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej has been appointed by The President of The Arab Republic of Egypt as a member of the Egyptian Senate in 2020.
Called ‘Mama Africa’, Senator Kelej is an inspirational pioneer in the transformation of Patient care in Africa. More than 1000 doctors from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarships of specialties training in critical fields.
She emphasized, “During Coronavirus pandemic, it has been more important than ever to build capacity and training of specialized doctors. In some of these countries, they have never had even one oncologist, for example. They may have a general practitioner, but they did not have specialized doctors. We simply made history in these countries such as The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea & Liberia.”
“Our strategy and our program have been crystal clear – to invest in professional healthcare capacity building, and by helping train skilled doctors in the midst of this pandemic, has made a big diﬀerence,” she adds.
She is truly a force of nature and one of Africa’s unsung ‘sheroes’ of women empowerment and health advocates.
A Style icon and a champion to empower Fashion with Purpose in Africa
It is worth noting that Senator Rasha Kelej pays great attention to her looks and has a special and unique style that mixes international and African fashion. She never abandons the look of the outgoing, creative businesswoman who keeps pace with all international fashion trends, but rather mixes them with elegant touches of the African looks, which highlights the talent and creativity of many African fashion designers. Dr. Rasha Kelej is a truly African fashion icon and a champion of empowering fashion with purpose in Africa through supporting and mentoring potential new African fashion designers. She launches an annual competition through the Merck Foundation for the best design that carries messages that address sensitive social and health issues. She explained to us “My vision is to develop a community of young African fashion designers in order to catalyze a movement whose reach extends far beyond just fashion. But to create a culture shift and be the voice of the voiceless in their communities.“
“Fashion industry has already got enough flakes for being superficial. Let’s change this perception and create a meaningful fashion trend aiming to educate our communities. I love fashion and I strongly believe that designs can make Men and Women proud to wear to show their contribution toward their communities, villages, cities, across Africa ”
She added, “I will pay more attention to helping and supporting new fashion designers and talents in Africa to start their lines and professional journey in their countries, at the same time I am committing to raising awareness to correct misconceptions and wrong habits through their work and designs. I will also start two very important projects, I am planning for production of a TV program directed to African countries to unleash these talents, and also the start my own fashion line targeting Africa, through which I will cooperate with new talented designers from time to time to spread community awareness in rural African communities. It is not only my hobby, but it is also part of my personal contribution towards my beloved Africa.”
We can see what is unique about Senator Rasha… it is her appreciation for art, fashion, and media as critical partners in Merck Foundation’s journey of transforming patient care, sensitizing our communities, and addressing sensitive issues such as breaking infertility stigma, supporting girl education and stopping GBV. She is also cementing her position in African pop culture, capitalizing on her experience in TV production via releasing 20 songs with popular African musicians. She has developed concepts, produced, and sometimes directs their video clips herself. She also produced and directed an inspiring pan- African song called ‘My White Army’ as her personal contribution to thank the doctors and nurses ﬁghting on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. The song, featuring singers from 11 African countries in three languages Arabic, English, and French, has received high acclaim from the continent.
She is the first and perhaps the only one to utilize fashion and art to break infertility stigma in Africa.
“I’d like to invite all fashion designers, singers, filmmakers, media representatives, and young talents to apply for these important awards and become health and social champions to become the voice of the voiceless in their communities. Kindly share in entries through an email at Submit@merck foundation.com”, she added.
To know more about Rasha Kelej’ s journey in creating a culture shift and leading Merck Foundation efforts in transforming patient care in Africa, please visit www.merck-foundation.com
*Courtesy of Forbes Africa