WINDHOEK, 17 MAY – The ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Namibia campaign was launched in Windhoek on Wednesday.
The campaign is an Africa-wide effort by the Merck Foundation to create a cultural shift towards de-stigmatisation of infertility and respect and appreciation for infertile women in Africa, as well as to raise awareness about infertility prevention and management.
The foundation is a subsidiary of the German chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences company Merck and it is collaborating with the National Council for the campaign.
Merck Foundation Chief Executive Officer Dr Rasha Kelej during the launch said about 85 per cent of infertility cases are preventable.
She said the time is ripe for a shift in mindset around the issue.
“Not only husbands mistreat women [due to infertility], mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law can also influence their son or brother to harass his wife because she cannot have children. All this has to change,” she said.
She added that they not only focus on education as it looks toward the future.
“What about the present? We are also calling on Members of Parliament to advocate for this in their communities. A little bit of information which takes one minute can save lives, happiness and can change culture and beliefs around you,” Kelej said.
She further said the media can play a crucial role in sensitising citizens on infertility, its prevention and the role of men and women in the fight.
The programme has also been launched in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Speaking at the same occasion, National Council Chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams indicated that infertility is a reality in Namibia and should be addressed.
She also said women who are unable to conceive “do not owe anyone an explanation”.
“Don’t care. Shine your shine. You don’t anybody an explanation. If God decides the time for you to bear a child, you shall bear that child. Don’t worry about people when they talk. They talk about us every day. You know what? I don’t care, I shine,” she said.
Mensah-Williams has been appointed ambassador of the ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign, to work closely with the Merck Foundation in defining interventions to break the stigma around childless women across the country.
The campaign aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health and by changing mindsets. It supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care.