Ghana’s First Lady Kicks Against Stigmatising Childless Couples

African First Ladies with Merck Foundation CEO and Chairman of E. Merck KG in a group photo

Ghana’s First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has kicked against the stigmatisation of couples who are unable to bear children.

Speaking at the 9th Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary Conference in Dubai, Mrs. Akufo-Addo described the culture of stigmatising childless couples in societies as ‘gross injustice’.

“Infertility especially for African women is a huge challenge. Growing up, I saw how stigma and lack of support traumatised women labelled as infertile, to me, this was gross injustice” she told the gathering.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo thus noted that Merck Foundation’s “More Than a Mother” initiative, aimed at breaking the stigma around infertility strikes a chord in her heart, considering the that it seeks to throw light on infertility and its attendant stigma, particularly against women.

She said through the support of Merk Foundation, Ghana has received specialist training for some medical officers which has contributed to improving access to equitable and quality healthcare solutions in the healthcare sector.

“The support provided by Merck Foundation to support infertility and other medical conditions in Ghana has been immense …there is the need to advocate for a cultural shift that supports women and society,’ she added.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo, further applauded Merck Foundation for its role in promoting girl-child education in Ghana, indicating that her office and Merck Foundation are working together to inspire girl-child education in Ghana.

Chief Executive Officer of the Merck Foundation, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, commended African First Ladies for their collaborative roles in breaking infertility stigma on the African Continent, as well as helping to train more specialised doctors for the continent’s healthcare sector.

Senator Dr. Kelej said the inputs by the various African First Ladies has gone far to raise awareness on the Merck Foundation’s ‘More Than a Mother’ initiative, which seeks to break stigma around infertility in Africa.

She expressed the hope that the conference will help to discuss strategies and solutions to improve quality healthcare delivery in the various African countries.

“I am happy that the Merck Foundation has realised the strategy to improve access to quality healthcare solutions in each country in Africa,” Senator Dr. Kelej noted.

She said Merck Foundation through its scholarships has built the capacities of medical doctors across various African countries in diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, cancer, fertility care, women health, sexual and reproductive care, respiratory medicines, acute medicines, and research.

She further noted that it was the Foundation’s goal to train more health personnel in areas of Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Orthopedic Trauma, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma and orthopedics.

The Chairman of both Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Professor. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, expressed his appreciation to all the African First Ladies for working to raise awareness on infertility, diabetes and hypertension and encouraged them to continue to work with the Foundation to improve healthcare delivery in the region.

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri