Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of the Merck Foundation, philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany has spearheaded their programs in Africa to transform the patient care landscape, and raise community awareness on various critical social and health issues. She travels far and wide across Africa to deeply understand the issues and to be able to develop successful and innovative strategies to tackle them.
Recently, Kelej has been conferred with Doctorate of Letters (D.Litt), Honoris Causa by Krishna World University in India, recognizing her efforts & commitment towards women empowerment, girl education and patient care transformation in Africa & other developing countries.
Moreover, under her leadership, Merck Foundation has been recognized by Avance Media Honours as 2022’s Most Influential NGO whose collective efforts are shaping Africa’s future.
“These recognitions only motivate me to work harder and give my best to our beloved Africa. I will continue working closely with my team and partners to empower women, support girl education, and build healthcare capacity,” she says.
African First Ladies & Merck Foundation Impact Journey
Recently, African First Ladies of 13 countries came together for their annual conference “Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary”, where together they celebrated the 10 years anniversary of Merck Foundation programs. The African First Ladies, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation, shared impact report their journey of partnership with Merck Foundation.
The conference was conducted in Dubai (virtual and in-person) to benefit more than 10,000 participants from more than 70 countries, who met to discuss strategies and solutions for health & social challenges in their countries with the aim to contribute to transforming patient care landscape and building healthcare and media capacity.
“I am proud that we provided more than 1580 scholarships to doctors from 50 countries, in more than 36 critical underserved specialties. We are making history in many African countries by providing training to the first specialized doctors in many fields like Fertility, Embryology, Oncology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Respiratory and more, in The Gambia, Burundi, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Chad, Niger, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia , Zimbabwe and more, this makes us an important part of Africa’s legacy,” says Kelej.
“More Than a Mother” A Historic Movement To Break Infertility Stigma
She successfully created the iconic “More Than a Mother”, a strong movement that aims to empower infertile & childless women through access to information, education and change of mindset. Not only
this, it also addresses critical social issues like supporting girl education, ending female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, stopping gender-based violence (GBV), women empowerment and more. “I believe that all these issues are connected,” she emphasizes.
She worked over the past 5 years with 20 African First Ladies as Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother”, transforming together the lives of many women who have been a victim to the infertility stigma.
Believe In Girl Education Today For Women Empowerment tomorrow
She emphasizes that educated girls can build healthier and stronger families, communities and economies.
“I strongly believe girl education is strong strategy to eliminate Child Marriage, GBV, FGM and STDs, and even infertility, therefore, empowering girls and women is the spirit of everything we do at Merck Foundation, and it is close to my heart as an African woman. I understand that girls and women have tremendous potential to excel in any field they represent, but they are deprived of a favorable environment, in many societies, especially in underserved communities,” she says.
Together with African First Ladies, they contributed to the future of 1000’s of girls by providing grants to continue their education and providing essential school items, through “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.
“Girl education today for women empowerment tomorrow,” she emphasizes.
Taking The Unconventional Route
Kelej is an intellectual and a creative powerhouse, spreading her wings in a multiplicity of areas, breaking barriers to make an impact. Her work speaks volumes of creativity, determination and a leadership spirit.
She has conceptualized, produced, directed and hosted a unique pan-African TV program “Our Africa” by Merck Foundation, which has been broadcasted on prime TV stations all over Africa like Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Botswana, Gambia and soon to be broadcast in many other countries.
The program focuses on pertinent issues like Breaking the Infertility Stigma, Ending Child Marriage, Supporting Girl Education, Ending FGM, Stopping GBV, Promoting Healthy Lifestyle, Diabetes Awareness and Coronavirus Health Awareness, through “Fashion and Art with Purpose” African Community established by her in 2020.
The program has captured the attention and hearts of millions of viewers across Africa. The program also streams Rasha Kelej YouTube and social media channels handles and Merck Foundation channels too.
The Key – Continuous Engagement And Flawless Implementation
She is using singular avenues to create community awareness about Africa’s social and health issues.
She donned her creative hat to produce and direct around 30 songs in English, French, Portuguese and local languages, with various African artists to address Infertility Stigma, Women Empowerment , Girl Education, Child Marriage, Diabetes , Hypertension Awareness and more.
The President of Liberia and The Daughter of Burundi President also composed and sung songs to support “Merck Foundation More than a Mother” movement.
Another unique engaging initiative she has been undertaking and implementing successfully since 2017; The Awards for talents from the Media, Fashion, Film and Music fields, encouraging them to be the voice of the voiceless and creating a culture shift by addressing the above issues.
She has also launched 8 children’s storybooks such as; “Jackline’s Rescue”, “Ride into the Future”, “Jude Sugar Free” & “Mark’s Pressure” on a range of social issues to sensitize children from young age in three languages, English, French and Portuguese. To follow Senator, Dr Rasha Kelej and Merck Foundation journey, find Rasha Kelej at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and Merck Foundation: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
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