Merck, a leading science and technology company launched the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ and ‘Merck STEM for Girls and Women’ program for the first time in Liberia. The launch took place on Wednesday as part of the organisation’s commemoration of International Women’s Day.
'Merck More than a Mother’ will empower women in Liberia through improving access to information, health, change of mindset and economic empowerment. The initiative was first implemented in Kenya in 2015 followed by Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Central African Republic in 2016. In Liberia both ‘Merck More than a Mother’ and ‘Merck STEM’ program are in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
“Today we are recognizing the International Women’s Day by starting this very critical campaign for Liberia with the aim to empower an under-privileged segment of women. Women who couldn’t bear children and for this they are discriminated and mistreated by their husbands, families and communities. In some cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. This is unacceptable and has to change through our campaign,” said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.
“We will also start ‘Merck STEM’ Program which will contribute towards the social and economic development of Africa through empowering women and girls in the fields of science and technology where they are currently under-represented, starting today with 140 girls at Victoria Tolbert School,” Rasha Kelej added.
Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection emphasized: “In Liberia the infertility rate has increased due to the 40 years of civil conflict where women and girls were raped resulting in traumatic fistulas and the removal of their uterus to save their lives. Over 50% of these women and girls are now infertile. Harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation which is widespread in our country is also a major factor causing infertility as a complication. As a Ministry we have made a decision to collaborate with ‘Merck More than a Mother’ to help these women so that they are not stigmatized and discriminated against just because they are infertile and so that they can be empowered to become productive members of society. We also decided to partner with ‘Merck STEM’ program to empower our girls in STEM. This program is very important for Liberia and Her Excellency President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is very interested to make this program a great success,”
Merck has inaugurated their initiative at Victoria Tolbert School where they equipped their library with computer and science labs to encourage young girls to study science and technology as part of their ‘STEM for Girls and Women’ in Africa.