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

The Business Executive Group has extended its accolades to Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, at the distinguished Global She Achievers Awards 2024.

Senator Rasha was recognized for empowering women in STEM, girls in education, and building healthcare capacity in Africa and beyond at a recent grand event in Dubai, UAE.

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Senator Rasha expressed gratitude remarking, ”It is a great honor to receive The Global She Achievers Award 2024. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Business Executive Team for acknowledging our efforts over the past 12 years to empower women in STEM, support girl education and transform public healthcare in Africa and beyond.”

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej has been successfully leading the Merck Foundation programs for the past 12 years and works closely with more than 24 Africa’s First Ladies as Ambassadors of Merck Foundation and Ministries of Health, Education, Information, Communication, Gender, Academia, Media and Art societies in 50 countries.

Senator Kelej has been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential African Women for five consecutive years from 2019 to 2023. She has also been awarded Doctorate of Letters Honoris Causa (D.Litt) by Krishna World University, India for her outstanding achievement in the social sciences, justice and reform. Moreover, under her leadership, Merck Foundation was also recognized as the “2022 NGO OF THE YEAR”.

“We at Merck Foundation, together with First Ladies of Africa, are marking the Women’s Day through our “More Than a Mother” campaign, which is a strong and unique movement that aims to empower women living with infertility stigma through access to information, education, change of mindset, and economic empowerment.” Added Senator Rasha Kelej.

As a part of their historic “More Than a Mother” campaign, Merck Foundation is contributing to building and advancing fertility care capacity in Africa and Asia, to support childless women and couples. Over 535 of the total scholarships are for doctors from 39 countries in reproductive & sexual health and fertility care capacity to advance women’s health.

Merck Foundation has till today provided more than 1730 Scholarships to young doctors in 42 critical and underserved medical specialties from 50 countries, out of which over 46%, that is 780 scholarships have been provided to women doctors.

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Merck Foundation has also been empowering childless and infertile women through their “Empowering Berna” initiative under their “More Than a Mother” movement. This initiative helps women who cannot be treated for infertility anymore by helping them get trained to establish small businesses so that they can be independent and rebuild their lives. Through ‘Empowering Berna’, the lives of many infertile women have been transformed in many African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Niger, Malawi, and many more.

Merck Foundation has also launched MARS Awards to appreciate and recognize ‘Best African Women Researchers’ and ‘Best Young African Researcher’. The aim is to empower women and young African researchers, advance their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with a focus on “The Role of Scientific Research in Women’s Health and Reproductive Care” this year.

Together with Africa’s First LadiesMerck Foundation has contributed to the future of 425 girls by providing scholarships to continue their education and also providing essential school items for thousands of schoolgirls through our “Educating Linda” program in many African countries such as Burundi, Malawi, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and more. Moreover, Merck Foundation has also benefitted 1000 girls through their awareness campaigns which include releasing many inspiring children’s storybooks, animation films and songs to support girls’ education and end child marriage.

“It gives me immense pleasure to witness that, together with Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond, in partnership, and this award will only motive me to do more and more,” concluded Senator Kelej.


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