Infertility has been a problem in many African families with women mainly being blamed for not being able to bear children for their husbands. Sometimes, families do not even consider the fact that the woman might not be the problem.
Infertility affects men and women equally. Approximately one‐third of cases of couple infertility is due to male factors, one‐third to female factors and one‐third relates to a combination of male and female factors or has no identifiable cause. Men should acknowledge and openly discuss their infertility issues and strive for a team approach to family building with their partners. Male infertility is mainly caused by sperm abnormalities, such as low sperm production, misshapen or immobile sperm, or blockages that stop sperm delivery. A culture shift is needed to progress toward Shared Fertility Responsibility (SFR),
MERCK, one of the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world that will be turning 350 years old in 2018 has since 2015 been empowering women with fertility problems and those ones facing stigmatization. The MERCK more than a mother program that was first launched in Kenya has helped many women who had been stigmatized by society and branded as outcasts because in our African setting, women get married to bear children for their husbands. So if one cannot do this, they are perceived as useless.
“I remember asking my husband how long I will continue to live in this misery and he replied- you refuse to leave my house as if your parents are dead, if they are dead you should ask them to open their graves so you may join them. You are of no use to me. Every time I remember his insults or even talk about it I feel faint and out of breath. Due to the stress I endured I suffered hypertension and diabetes. Now my life is about injecting insulin day and night.” Says Grace Kambini, a 57 year old woman.
“I advice young people to visit hospitals regularly and seek solutions as a couple. If I was younger with the knowledge that I have now, I would have explored better fertility options. But now I am too old.”
MERCK more than a mother helped Grace to stand on her feet again by building a small local cafeteria for her. This is a part of Merck’s empowering project for the infertile women called “Empowering Berna” which supports and trains women so that they can be able to rebuild their lives again.
This month, Merck held an annual meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi which was attended by Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero, Prof. George Godia the UNESCO ambassador for Kenya, Dr. Rasha Kelej the chief social officer and Vice President Merck healthcare and the first lady of The Central African Republic, H.E Madame Brigette Touadera who is the champion of Merck in her country. She accepted the role in June 2016 and took the initiative to fight Infertitlity and stigmatization in Francophone Africa. “ Many young women are suffering due to infertility and stigmatization. My role is exalting and I am honored to be a part of this movement to create change. On the 27th of January 2017, I launched a pilot activity back at my home country and donated items for small businesses to many infertile women who are suffering. I believe with
“ Many young women are suffering due to infertility and stigmatization. My role is exalting and I am honored to be a part of this movement to create change. On the 27th of January 2017, I launched a pilot activity back at my home country and donated items for small businesses to many infertile women who are suffering. I believe with consistency we can be able to fight this.”
They all later went to Olympic primary school where Merck was launching their MERCK-STEM program where they went to launch a computer lab they built for the school and equipped it with computers. Merck aims at educating about 7000 girls who have a passion for medicine through STEM. In partnership with the University of Nairobi and UNESCO, they also sponsor students who have a passion for medicine and send them to European approved schools so that they can learn more about diabetes and cancer which have become the highest killing diseases in Kenya and beat Malaria.
STEM is aimed at empowering more women and girls to join science and mathematics so that they can come up with ways to deal with lifestyle diseases that have now rocked our country and Africa at large.
“Over the years, we have evolved from being a continent with communicable diseases to being a country with a very large number of people suffering from what is called lifestyle diseases. This is an epidemic that has to be dealt with immediately.” Said Nairobi Governor, Dr. Evans Kidero.
Beatrice Nyago the first winner of UNESCO MARS best African women researcher award vowed to make sure that she mentors girls and women who have been demoralized by their communities and society for not being able to bear children.
With the support of the Kenyan government, KEWPA (Kenya Women Parliamentary Association), 47 Women Representatives Association and Africa Fertility Association, Merck aims at doing even more with the launch of their Embryology research programme, they aim at changing the lives of more women like Grace and Jackline Mwende whose hands were chopped off by her husband, but with their help, they have built her a house and opened a mini supermarket for her so that she wouldn’t have to suffer anymore.