Tuesday 29 October 2019


FIRST LADY Auxillia Mnangagwa’s vision to empower childless couples continues to cast a ray of positivity, making her a fountain of hope and pillar of strength for people in such situations.

She has relentlessly been committing time, resources and giving a shoulder to lean on to barren women who sometimes bear the tag of being labelled lesser beings.

Failure to conceive in most African settings is viewed as a woman issue where females in such situations find themselves being ridiculed and being divorced. 

Others endure endless beatings, leading some to end up stealing children to protect their marriages. Some of them are asked to perform degrading rituals.

It can be worse in the event of the spouse’s death as women in such situations are usually driven away from their matrimonial homes empty-handed.

It is because of this that Merck More Than A Mother initiative, is holding a two-day conference in Ghana to empower infertile women through access to information, education health and by changing mind-sets.

Merck More Than A Mother initiative aims to end stigma surrounding infertility. In partnership with the academia, ministries of health and international fertility societies, the initiative also provides medical education and training for healthcare providers and embryologist to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

In her speech at the 6th edition of the Merck Africa-Asia Luminary, Amai Mnangagwa joined other First Ladies of Africa to celebrate the second anniversary of Merck Foundation and praised the Government of Ghana for efforts to make the event a success.

“Since my meeting at Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiatives in March, I am also very proud to be appointed the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother in Zimbabwe, to empower infertile women through access to information, education, change of mind-set and economic empowerment,” she said.

She said through her partnership with Merck and the ministries of health, information, education and gender, they have made a strong impact for the people of Zimbabwe in building cancer, diabetes and fertility care capacity and define interventions to break the stigma of infertility for the next five years.

“As Merck More Than a Mother Ambassador, I have worked in collaboration with our ministries, media and community leaders to sensitise our communities and rural areas to better understand infertility, hence to break the stigma around infertile women and to empower them at all levels,” she said.

“We have launched in partnership with Ministry of Information and Ministry of Education, the Merck Media Health Training in Zimbabwe and the Media Recognition Awards to educate them on how to break the stigma of infertility through their work. 

“This was a very impactful initiative and the media representatives have benefited very much from this training.

“We have also established a partnership between Merck Foundation and Ministry of Health to build healthcare capacity and train the future experts in Zimbabwe. We selected 11 doctors to be provided with fertility specialists training and embryology training to be the first fertility care team in the country and this will be the best support for infertile women and couples in the public sector.”

Under the partnership, the First Lady said Zimbabwe had earmarked five doctors to receive Merck Foundation oncology fellowship and Masters Degrees in India and Egypt, to be the first fully trained oncology team in the country.

She said more candidates will be selected to receive training in other oncology sub-specialities.

“Moreover, we have also selected five doctors to be provided with one-year online diabetes diplomas as part of Merck Foundation Diabetes blue points project, to improve access to diabetes care nationwide, they will graduate next year,” said the First Lady.

“I am urging our doctors to take their education seriously so that they will be able to play their critical role in the communities. On behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, we welcome the long-term partnership with Merck Foundation to build health care capacity and achieve many important milestones.”

Officially opening the conference, Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo emphasised that the goal of the 2030 United Nations Social Development Goal (SDG) was to promote global development, leaving no one behind.

SDG Number 5 spells the need to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. 

“When our women are empowered, the continent is empowered,” he said.

“According to WHO, 186 million people around the world experience either primary or secondary infertility. WHO tells us again that even though infertility in men is the cause of 50 percent of cases of couple’s inability to conceive, women suffer the most, they are abandoned, depressed, humiliated, insulted, maltreated and stigmatised.

“In most countries they are regarded as outcasts.”

President Akuffo-Addo said the stigmatisation of the barren was an unfortunate situation in Africa that should end.

“The onus lies with us, all of us should join hands and work towards finding solutions to end stigma around infertility,” he said. “We want to thank Merck for standing with our women.” 

Ministers of Health, including Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, policy makers, health care providers and academics are attending the two-day workshop.

First Ladies from at least 10 countries, including Zimbabwe, shared their experiences since their partnership with Merck Foundation, outlining challenges and programmes they are pursuing in their respective countries. Herald


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