By Gracious Mugovera -September 30, 2021
MERCK FOUNDATION CEO and president of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Senator Dr Rasha Kelej is on the list of 100 Most Influential African Women 2021.
The list has been released by Avance Media as part of ‘Be a Girl’ Initiative which, through its girls’ empowerment project, launched an annual publication to highlight and celebrate achievements and accomplishments of 100 women from Africa.
The recognition of Dr Kelej is a result of her efforts to transform patient care in Africa and breaking the infertility stigma through her ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign.
She has also been recognised for her programme, ‘Educating Linda’, which seeks to empower young girls so that they reach their full potential.
Speaking on the recognition, Dr Kelej said: “I’m truly honoured with the recognition and very happy to be included in the list alongside many prestigious and renowned African Women. I congratulate each one of them. This is a huge validation of my journey and my efforts to empower women of my continent; it will certainly motivate me to work even harder and more sincerely towards my goal of transforming patient care for the people of my beloved Africa.”
Dr Kelej is one of the women who have been working tirelessly to ensure empowerment and development of women on the continent.
She is behind the inspiring ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign which is against female infertility stigma.
The awareness campaign in Africa does not only break societal beliefs but gives a voice and empowers women facing infertility issues.
Women from different societies that make Africa are empowered through social, economic and educational facilities that ensure there is access to information, health care facilities and change of mindset.
To support this campaign, more than 20 African First Ladies have been appointed ambassadors of ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’.
In Zimbabwe, First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa is an Ambassador of ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother.’
The two women — First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa and Dr Kelej — have partnered in ensuring that they break the stigma associated with infertility.
Together, they have provided scholarships for more than 100 local doctors in many critical and underserved specialty areas.
It is through ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ that Zimbabwe set up platforms that provide scientific facts and infertility awareness and prevention.
Today, many women are not only accessing fertility clinics around the country but can also explore different scientific methods of preventing infertility.
Dr Kelej, who hails from Egypt, has also made an impact in Africa by showcasing her multi-talent through initiating ideas that see crucial messages being communicated through fashion, music and film.
These platforms have provided Dr Kelej with the opportunity to challenge traditional beliefs that have contributed to infertile women being stigmatised and discriminated.
By being the brains behind ‘Educating Linda’ Programme, Dr Kelej is also making strides in improving and supporting education of the girl child in Africa.
Her educational support comes through providing scholarships and grants that can cover school fees, uniforms and educational essentials that include notebooks, pens and mathematical instruments.
The Programme, ‘Educating Linda’, has seen the assistance of Merck Foundation in publishing children’s books.
In Zimbabwe, titles, such as Educating Rujeko, Tudu’s Story and Make the Right Choice, have been published.
“Empowering women starts with education to enable them to be healthier, stronger and independent,” said Dr Kelej.
Her influence in Africa is also recognised through her pioneering acts in transforming healthcare in Africa.
Merck Foundation has seen more than 1 300 doctors from 42 countries being awarded scholarships in critical and underserved fields such as oncology, diabetes , preventative cardiovascular medicine, endocrinology , sexual and reproductive medicine , acute medicine , respiratory medicine as well as embryology and fertility specialty, among others
Training and scholarships being provided to doctors have, without doubt, contributed to the improvement of healthcare facilities in different African countries.
In some countries, it is providing new medical and scientific facilities that were not there before.
Dr Kelej has made it to the list of 100 Most Influential Africans for the fourth time.
The 2021 list has a representation of the most powerful African women from 28 African countries.
These prestigious women were chosen from various career backgrounds that include diplomacy, philanthropy, politics, activism, entrepreneurship, business leadership and entertainment.
Some of the famous selected women include H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, the President of Tanzania; H.E. Mariam Chabi Talata, Vice-President of Benin; H.E. Victoire Tomegah Dobge, the Prime Minister of Togo; and H.E. Jessica Rose Epelalupo , the Vice-President of Uganda, among others.