Home Awards & Recognition Merck Foundation CEO Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej Named African Woman of the Year

Merck Foundation CEO Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej Named African Woman of the Year

by Brian Yatich

During the commemoration of International Women’s Day, the Business Executive Group extended its accolades to Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, at the distinguished Global She Achievers Awards 2024.

Her commendable endeavors in empowering women in STEM, advocating for girls’ education, and enhancing healthcare capabilities in Africa and beyond were recognized at this grand event held recently in Dubai, UAE.

Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, in her capacity as the CEO of Merck Foundation, expressed profound gratitude, stating, “Firstly, Happy International Women’s Day to all the women in the world and to the men who support and empower them. It is indeed a tremendous honor to receive The Global She Achievers Award 2024, particularly on the significant occasion of International Women’s Day. I extend my sincere appreciation to the esteemed Business Executive Team for acknowledging our sustained efforts over the past 12 years in empowering women in STEM, promoting girl education, and revolutionizing public healthcare across Africa and beyond.”

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej has demonstrated exceptional leadership in steering the initiatives of Merck Foundation over the course of 12 years, collaborating closely with over 24 African First Ladies serving as Ambassadors of Merck Foundation, as well as Ministries of Health, Education, Information, Communication, Gender, Academia, Media, and Art societies across 50 countries.

Senator Kelej’s remarkable contributions have been acknowledged through her consistent inclusion in the list of 100 Most Influential African Women for five consecutive years spanning from 2019 to 2023.

She was also conferred with the prestigious Doctorate of Letters Honoris Causa (D.Litt) by Krishna World University, India, in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the realms of social sciences, justice, and reform. Furthermore, under her adept stewardship, Merck Foundation was honored as the “2022 NGO OF THE YEAR”.

“At Merck Foundation, in collaboration with Africa’s First Ladies, we are commemorating Women’s Day through our impactful “More Than a Mother” campaign, a robust and distinctive movement aimed at empowering women facing infertility stigma through access to information, education, mindset transformation, and economic empowerment,” added Senator Rasha Kelej.

As part of the transformative “More Than a Mother” campaign, Merck Foundation is actively contributing to the enhancement and progression of fertility care capacity in Africa and Asia, with a focus on supporting childless women and couples. A significant portion of the total scholarships, totaling over 535, have been allocated to doctors from 39 countries specializing in reproductive & sexual health and fertility care capacity, with the overarching goal of advancing women’s health.

Extending warm wishes on International Women’s Day to women worldwide and the men who champion their empowerment, Merck Foundation has to date awarded over 1730 Scholarships to aspiring doctors across 42 crucial and underserved medical specialties from 50 countries, with a notable 46% of these scholarships, amounting to 780, being granted to female doctors.

Through their “Empowering Berna” initiative under the “More Than a Mother” movement, Merck Foundation is empowering women grappling with infertility by equipping them with the skills to establish small businesses, fostering independence, and aiding in rebuilding their lives. The lives of numerous infertile women have been positively impacted through the ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative in various African nations such as Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Niger, Malawi, among others.

Merck Foundation has also introduced the MARS Awards to honor and acknowledge the contributions of ‘Best African Women Researchers’ and ‘Best Young African Researcher’. This initiative aims to empower women and young African researchers, enhance their research capabilities, and amplify their impact in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), with a special emphasis on “The Role of Scientific Research in Women’s Health and Reproductive Care” this year.

In collaboration with Africa’s First Ladies, Merck Foundation has facilitated the future of 425 young girls through scholarships to pursue their education, in addition to providing essential school supplies for numerous schoolgirls through the “Educating Linda” program across several African nations including Burundi, Malawi, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, and more. Moreover, Merck Foundation has positively impacted thousands of girls through their awareness campaigns, encompassing the release of inspiring children’s storybooks, animated films, and songs to advocate for girl education and combat child marriage.

As part of Merck Foundation’s Community Awareness Program, over 30 songs and 8 Children’s Storybooks have been developed in English, French, Portuguese, and local languages, alongside 7 Storybook Animation Films in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish languages, aimed at instilling early awareness of social and health issues, nurturing empathy, understanding, and informed decision-making in young minds for a brighter and healthier future.

Merck Foundation has launched a groundbreaking Pan African TV Program “Our Africa”, conceived, produced, directed, and hosted by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, to address social and health challenges through the lens of “Fashion and ART” within the community.

Moreover, over 3000 media representatives have been trained by Merck Foundation to raise awareness on the significance of supporting girl education and addressing sensitive issues such as Ending Child Marriage, FGM, combating infertility stigma, and more.

In collaboration with Africa’s First Ladies, Merck Foundation has unveiled 8 significant Awards, categorized under two themes, to recognize the contributions of Media, Fashion Designers, Filmmakers, Musicians/Singers, and budding African talents in these domains.

The themes of the awards encompass promoting a healthy lifestyle, raising awareness about prevention and early detection of Diabetes and Hypertension, and advocating for initiatives such as Breaking Infertility Stigma, Supporting Girls’ Education, Ending Child Marriage, Ending FGM, Combating GBV, and Women Empowerment across all spheres.

“It is truly gratifying to witness the collective impact we, alongside Africa’s First Ladies and key Ministries, are having on the lives of individuals in the most marginalized communities in Africa and beyond through our collaborative efforts. This esteemed award serves as a motivation for me to continue our mission with even greater zeal,” concluded Senator Kelej.

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