Message from CEO of Merck Foundation, Senator Rasha Kelej, on meeting Malawi First Lady to discuss healthcare capacity building programs and ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign

I am honoured to receive my dear sister, H.E. MONICA CHAWERA, The First Lady of Malawi and Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother, to discuss our long-term partnership and programs to build healthcare capacity, support girl education, and empower infertile women in Malawi. I was glad to award Her Excellency to acknowledge her efforts as the Ambassador of Merck Foundation More than a Mother campaign.

Malawi First Lady, H.E. Mrs. Monica Chakwera meeting Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, Merck Foundation CEO

We have been working very closely with her and the Government of Malawi to provide scholarships of specialty training for the First Specialists in many fields such as – Fertility, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Oncology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Respiratory and Acute Medicines with the aim to transfer patient care in the country. I feel proud that we have already enrolled 20 young Malawian doctors for these specialty trainings. Many of them will be the first specialists in Malawi. We are making history together.”

Merck Foundation through ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative has empowered infertile and childless women by helping them to establish their own small business so that they can be independent and re-build their own lives. Moreover, through our ‘Educating Linda’ program we have sponsored the education of 40 best performing girls in their secondary schools till they graduate as I truly believe that Education has the power to enable young girls to make their own decisions, stand up for their rights, and help them to access economic opportunities. An educated girl not only contributes for the better future of her own family, but can also contribute to the social and economic development of a country.

In partnership with The First Lady of Malawi together with Ministry of Education, we have also launched three children storybooks titled: “Chosadziwa Phiris’ story” to emphasize on the strong family values of love and respect from a young age which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and resulted domestic violence in the future, “Educating Alinafe Story” to emphasize on the importance of empowering girls through education and “Make the Right Choice Story” to raise awareness about coronavirus prevention amongst children and youth as it provides facts about the pandemic and how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak. 30,000 copies of the three storybooks have been distributed to young readers, school students of Malawi.

We, together with The Malawi First Lady, have announced the 2021 edition of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Awards for our Media, Fashion, Film making, and Music fraternity to raise awareness on the important topics of breaking the stigma around infertility, underscoring the importance of girls’ education and women empowerment at all levels. Together, we have also announced “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Awards and “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards, Coronavirus theme-based awards for Media and Fashion fraternity, as this will help in raising awareness about continuing the best practices and also show support to our frontline workers in the country and the rest of Africa.

I am looking forward to working with The First Lady of Malawi, H.E. Mrs. MONICA CHAKWERA to further advance healthcare capacity and promise to improve access to quality and equitable health care and create a strong medical army in Malawi.

Kind regards,
Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej,
CEO of Merck Foundation,
President of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother
One of the 100 Most Influential African women (2019, 2020 & 2021)

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