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Professor Nkandu Luo On Way To Becoming Zambia’s First Woman President?
July 24, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Peter Kayula

Professor Nkandu Luo is a trusted democrat with a proven record of being fiscally modest .Photo credit FB

Zambia’s Patriotic Front (PF) Party owes a measure of its inspiration to the presence a female microbiology professor as a potent force in the Southern African country’s politics. It is important therefore to explore her political life, works and the historical strain of an influential voice in President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s presidential campaign and subsequently his running mate.

The former lawyer who leads the race, President Lungu early last month officially announced the appointment of Professor Nkandu  Luo as his running  mate in the 2021  crucial presidential elections just weeks away, opening  up an unexpected debate about the professor’s possible future  role as the second woman vice-president of Zambia.

A trusted democrat with a proven record of being fiscally modest and (she) believes in freedom to prosper, she turned out to be the most experienced Cabinet minister, President Lungu has ever had, diminishing reported contenders to the vice-presidency such as opposition party leader, Edith Nawakwi, former Lands Minister, Jean Kapata and former First Lady and wife of the late Zambian president Michael Chilufya Sata.  

Nkandu Luo, is arguably among the few ministers in President Lungu’s administration who has never been summoned by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

While her reputation has at one time faced heady days over her decision to withdraw meal allowances for  the students at the two  Government Universities, the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt  University (which is believed to  have been  a Cabinet decision), she is still well liked by  many Zambians and nearly  universally known.

Her backing for President Lungu could help insulate him against any unexpected  governance deficiencies allegations. At the least, she could add more crowd-drawing power to a Lungu campaign, having occupied various ministerial positions such as in the former president and late Fredrick Chiluba’s administration, the late President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa administration, former President Rupiah Banda administration and late President Michael Sata and President Lungu administrations.

Professor Nkandu Luo did not immediately respond to requests for an interview. She has previously been difficult to engage in any form of Press interview suggestion she is too involved in the campaign activities.

Born in Chinsali in 1951 Professor Nkandu Luo attended Roma Girls Secondary School and the Dominican Convent. She later attended the Moscow State University in Russia graduating with a Master of Science in Microbiology and later on obtained another Master of Science degree and a PhD in Immunology from Brunei University.

She was elected to Parliament representing the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in the Mandevu Constituency in 1996. She served as Deputy Minister of Health from 1997 to 1999 and Health Minister in 1999 but lost her seat in the 2001 elections.

Professor Luo was elected as the Patriotic Front the representative for Munali  Constituency in 2011. She was appointed as Minister of Local Government and Housing by then President Michael Sata, serving from 2011 to 2014, and then became Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs from 2014 to 2015.

She was sworn in as Minister of Gender by President Edgar Lungu in February 2015.  In March 2016, Luo was adopted as President of the Women Parliamentary caucus at the 134th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Lusaka. In September 2016, she became Zambia’s Higher Education Minister and later Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, the position she held until President Lungu dissolved Parliament early this year.

It is believed that Professor Nkandu Luo ‘s personality has been an active factor  in the  shaping of the Patriotic Front Party’s political character. Highly intelligent, proud and acutely sensitive about her status and rank, she responds mildly  to most expressed criticism about her and accompanying these traits are considerable reserves of personal charm, including an infallible memory for people with aspirations for higher education in life, that has won her a devoted following.

In February 2018, a society of local researchers, the Zambia Association of Junior Researchers (ZAJR) made her the woman of the year, praising her as an eloquent lieutenant for the country’s scholars and researchers.

This followed her favourable response when the association sought her services as a matron of the researchers’ body. Despite her busy schedule, Professor Nkandu Luo responded in a letter dated February 5, 2018:

“I am pleased to inform you that I have accepted to be your Matron to help you realize the vision of your society with the will to help Zambia combat poverty through the promotion of innovative research projects of entrepreneurial nature.’’

The researchers group is composed of university academicians with a novel task to support and encourage the development of high quality research in every field of study that has a bias towards the eradication of poverty in Zambia in particular and Africa in general.

Accompanying Nkandu Luo‘s faith in the progressive character of the country’s educational sector has arguably been well demonstrated in her display of mass sentiments about research.

If one was to ask her how it felt to be a country-trotting minister in a country where the clamor for accountability and honesty in public offices are high … I am sure she would just frown and frown about it.

However, this is probably the time to put up a strong case for a woman likely to go down in history as the person who has rattled, busy as she is, all corners more than any other figure in Zambia, exposing the growing issues and the contributing a political revolutionary that fights for an equal society for all, and who is slowly rising from a former minister to a potential president of Zambia and arguably an international global leader.

To some, it is perhaps surprising that Professor Nkandu Luo, has spent several years in her role of thinking and building a feminism that struggles against inequality poverty, poor governance and ignorance, among other vices of the society.

President Lungu in a chat with his running mate Prof Nkandu Luo. Many see in her a smart choice for his second term.

 Chris Hayes, newly appointed director of the All Africa Alliance, a governance non-governmental Organization (NGO) in East Africa, has described her as ‘’Africa’s most upcoming revolutionary who is going to inspire hope for better service delivery in millions of citizens in the country.

With the crucial Zambia elections just a few weeks away – the 18th time elections since independence in 1964 – the stakes for the ruling Patriotic Front Party are higher than ever.

For now, or later, Professor Nkandu Luo has to get ready to pay much attention to a number of biographies expected to be published soon of her as one of Africa ‘s topmost ‘’extraordinary women’’ and as always is the case, she may still have to go up to disapprove some of the opinion to be written about her.

**Culled from July Issue of PAV Magazine

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The 2021 Gender Mainstreaming Awards expand across Africa, attracting high profile adjudicators.
July 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

JOHANNESBURG, 06 July 2021: The 2021 Gender Mainstreaming Awards (GMAs) encourage a meaningful representation of women in the business. This year the awards have expanded beyond Southern Africa to East and West Africa. Awards entries from companies across the region highlight the growing demand and interest in progressing equality discussions, gender inclusion and diversity programmes into business activity and leadership on the continent.

The GMAs, now in their ninth year, encourage more meaningful representation of women in the mainstream of business. Developed by Business Engage, the GMAs are sponsored by Accenture, Absa and Barloworld, among others, and attract entries from JSE-listed, sector leading and government organisations. With expansion into the African region, the awards have attracted high-profile adjudicators.

“There is a solid business case for meaningful representation of women in the mainstream of business,” says Colleen Larsen, CE at Business Engage. “Gender balance on boards not only encourages better leadership and governance; diversity contributes to better all-round board performance, and ultimately increases corporate performance for both companies and their shareholders. This year, as the pandemic compels the GMAs to go virtual, thereby reaching a wider audience – an African audience that is very interested in progressing diversity and gender equality in the workplace.”

“One of the major misconceptions about gender mainstreaming is that it only benefits women – however, the data proves that this is incorrect,” says Ntombi Mhangwani, Associate Director at Accenture Interactive and Women’s Forum Lead for Accenture in Africa. “Our study shows that creating a culture of equality could unlock billions into SA’s GDP. American Express data reveals that the revenue of global women-owned companies increased to more than $1.9 trillion in 2019. S&P’s data further shows that companies could grow by 10 percent if they hire and promote more women. Gender mainstreaming is more than ethics – it diversifies economies and is the smart decision to make as a business leader.”

The GMAs will, this year, offer more opportunities for shared learning across the region.

“The success of the awards cannot be achieved without the trusted opinion of successful inclusive leaders and champions of gender mainstreaming in the various regions,” says Larsen, “which is why we are extremely proud to have a diverse group of high profile judges for each of the three regions in Africa.”

High-profile judges by region

In East Africa, judges include Dorothy Ooko who is the Head of Communications and Public Affairs for Africa at Google. With years of leadership experience at the nexus of technology, innovation and communications, and keen insight into the world of digital marketing and experience working throughout Africa, Dorothy understands what it takes for companies on the continent to leverage digital media to meet strategic business objectives and connect with the contemporary African consumer.

More notable judges in East Africa include:
• Lenin Oyuga, Oracle
• Margaret Kimani, SBM Bank Ltd (Kenya)
• Sarah Richson, Richemele International
Consultants
• Alice Oyaro, Self-employed
• James Ngomeli, Brands and Beyond Ltd
• Magdalene Mwende Mulandi, SBM Bank
(K) Ltd.
• Waithera Mwai, Nairobi Securities
Exchange Plc
• Dr Patricia Murugami, Breakthrough
Leadership Transformation
• Racey Muchilwa, Novartis Sub-Saharan
Africa (SSA)
• Wambui Mbesa, Intrasoft International
East Africa
• Donna Phoebe Rege, Safaricom PLC
• Eva Komba, SDGs Kenya Forum
• Eva Muraya, BSD Group
• Helen Basuuta Nangonzi, Absa Bank Uganda Limited
• Annette Kimitei, Senaca East Africa
• Kendi Miaro Omol, Sanofi
• Marilyn Dutlow Munga, Kantar
• Sylvia Mukasa, GlobalX Investments Ltd/Innovation Labs
• Gladness C. Deogratias, NMB Plc
• Janice Kemoli, Ignition Consortium
• Romana Rajput, Interswitch Group
• Tom Shivo, HF Group
• Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane, Absa Bank Botswana Limited
• Risper Genga Ohaga, EABL
• Ndu Okoh, Host in The Situation
• Patrick Foya, ABSA Tanzania
• Tendai Murahwa, Diversity Dividend Africa
Ltd
• Nancy Biwott, Swedish Workplace
Programme
• Rosemary Okello-Orlale, Strathmore University Business School

The West Africa region judges include Dr Juliette Tuakli, an internationally acclaimed Paediatrician and Reproductive Health specialist. She is currently the Founder and Medical Director of CHILDAccra, a full-service clinic that provides clinical care and public health care services to children and their families across the West African region. A highly respected social philanthropist, serving on the boards of Mercy Ships, Zenith Bank (GH), and United Way Worldwide, where she is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and is also a co-Founder of the MOREMI Girls Leadership Initiative and serves as an advisor to various international organizations, corporations and the African Union. As the first female Rotary president of the premier Anglophone club in Africa, Dr Tuakli promoted legislation to protect the disabled, orphans and vulnerable children. Her work was hailed by the African Union in 2016 and she was elected to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

More notable judges in West Africa include:

• Cecilia Akintomide, Various Boards
• Richmond Carlos Otu, Jumia Group
• Aishatu Aminu, New Faces, New Voices
• Audrey Abakah, Absa Group
• Uche Uzoebo, SANEF
• Fabia Ogunmekan, WISCAR Nigeria
• Foluso Gbadamosi, Junior Achievement Nigeria
• Madame Merola, Madame Merola Global
Enterprise
• Abena Osei-Poku, ABSA Bank Ghana
• Birgit la Cour Madsen, Danish foreign
service
• Nneka Eze, VestedWorld
• Toyin Dania, MEST Africa
• Antoinette Kwofie, ABSA Bank Ghana &
Nigeria
• Hillary Andoh, HSA PR
• Peter Ehrenreich, Ehrenreich Logistics
(Pty) Ltd
• Cynthia Ofori-Dwumfuo, Hollard Ghana

• Lolade Awogbade, Development Bank of
Nigeria
• Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde, Google
• Dr Mercy Gardiner Tenkorang, JGC ICT
Group
• Freda Yahan Duplan, Zenith Bank Ghana
• Glory Edozien, Inspired by Glory Academy.

Southern Africa boasts a diverse group of judges like Grace Setlhare-Mankanku, a pan-African business executive with global outlook having 22 years’ experience in the Financial Services Sector. She has experience in the African diaspora having been a Regional Head of Corporate and Investment Banking looking after Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia. Skilled in Commercial and Retail Banking, Grace led executive positions in listed banks over the course of her career. She currently holds the position of Country Head of Retail with BancABC Botswana.

Other judges in Southern Africa include:

• Malcolm Larsen, Business Engage
• Martie Janse van Rensburg, Various
boards
• Shameela Ebrahim, JSE
• Shirley Machaba, PwC South Africa
• Helena Conradie, Satrix
• Jeanett Modise, Sanlam Limited
• Michael Pryke, EQ Impact
• William Surmon, Botswana Insurance
Company
• Magdeline Madibela, United Nations
• Nikki Viljoen, Viljoen Consulting
• Teryl Schroenn
• Joy-Marie Lawrence, Boardvisory
• Parmi Natesan, IoDSA
• Patrice Lasserre, Chartered Director serving as an NED
• Shepherd Shonhiwa, Reatile Group
• Elmarie Bissett, Nidaba Consulting
• Naresh Ashok, Brawne Capital Holdings
Limited
• Rose Mamabolo, WDB Investment
Holdings (WDB)
• Sazini Mojapelo, Corporate Citizenship
Africa
• Boitumelo Mogopa, FNB
• Dr Jerry Gule, Institute of People
Management (IPM)
• Refiloe Nkadimeng, African Rainbow
Capital
• Wade Cooper, DevelopMe
• Andrew Crone, Nedbank at Nedgroup
Investments
• Carina Wessels, Alexander Forbes
• Deirdre King, Jacaranda FM (94.2)
• Chimango Chikwanda, Absa Bank Zambia
PLC
• Gavin Fitzmaurice, Webber Wentzel
• Jo-Ann Pohl, iOCO
• Michael Judin, Judin Combrinck Inc
• Busisiwe Sithole, Absa Group
• Dionne Kerr, Siyakha Consulting (Pty) Ltd
• Megs Naidu, Citi
• Ntombi Mhangwani, Accenture Africa,Advocate Bokankatla Malatji, South
African Human Rights Commission

“Achieving gender diversity – at every level of business – is a vitally important issue for African companies participating in a global market. We believe that with the virtual, online GMA event we will reach a wider audience and raise greater awareness, driving progress,” says Larsen.
“Achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Africa requires gender mainstreaming at the heart of every business’ strategy, bold leadership and an empowering environment,” concludes Mhangwani.

AWARD CATEGORIES

  1. Category 1: Private sector
    1.1.Women on Boards Award (including Executive Committees and Pipeline development)
    To recognise and acknowledge companies that have successfully transformed their boards and board sub-committees whilst ensuring that female directors are judged on their experience, contribution to and involvement in, the board and not their gender. It seeks to acknowledge companies who challenge themselves to diversify their boards.
    1.2.Women on Executive Committees in Multinationals
    To recognise multinationals that have successfully put in place a programme/s to shift the statistics in terms of women on their Executive committees and have made successful appointments or have developed a pipeline programme geared towards appointments in the future.
    1.3.Equal Representation & Participation Award
    To recognise organisations that have developed strategies or have already implemented measures for the progressive realisation of a greater representation and meaningful participation of women in decision-making structures.
    1.4.Women Empowerment in the Workplace Award
    To recognise and acknowledge organizations that have not only advanced women in their workplaces through training and capacity building; but have also successfully transformed corporate behaviour and practices.
    1.5.Economic Empowerment Award
    To recognise and acknowledge organisations that have strategies in place to allow for future empowerment of women owned or managed businesses or that have successfully used enterprise development as a mechanism to empower women owned and managed businesses.
    1.6.Mainstreaming Gender and Disability Award
    To recognise and acknowledge companies that have strategies in place to allow for future disability programmes or that implemented sustainable disability programmes which have enhanced skills and provided employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
    1.7.Empowerment of Women in the Community
    To recognise and acknowledge organisations that have strategies in place to allow for future programmes or have
    implemented sustainable initiatives around poverty alleviation which have enhanced skills and provided income
    opportunities that have positively impacted the lives of women and poor communities.
    1.8.Investing in Young Women Award
    To recognise and acknowledge organisations that have strategies in place to allow for future education of young women or have implemented initiatives with the objective of addressing social inequities by educating and empowering young women leaders from diverse economic backgrounds. These initiatives have positively impacted the lives of young women who will become the next generation of women leaders!

    1.9.Gender Reporting by JSE Listed Companies Award (South Africa only)
    To recognise and acknowledge companies that have embraced both the spirit and the letter of this new listing requirement. It also recognises organisations reporting on pipeline development and further recognises whether or not the organisation has made reference to gender or gender policies in the previous year’s reports. At the same time the award recognises that many organisations report on “transformation” or “diversity and inclusion” which may include racial, gender and other transformation issues.
  2. Category 2: Individual Awards
    2.1. Inclusive Leader Award
    Male or female who is actively sponsoring others up the ranks. They have ingrained into their leadership style a
    recognition of the provable benefits to their business that diversity brings, with special emphasis on gender. The
    nomination is made by a person or group of people who know the nominee very well, primarily in a business role, and the nominee accepts the nomination in writing.
    2.2. Positive Role Model Award
    A lady growing her career and who understand the responsibility that comes with being a role model and the need to inspire others to do the same. The nominee is nominated by a person or group of people who know her very well, primarily in a business role, and the nominee accepts the nomination in writing.
  3. Gender Mainstreaming Champion Award
    This is the overall Award for the company in the region.
    KEY DATES
    Judging and selection
    Shortlisted companies and winners of regional individual categories are judged on the dates below.
    30 June Initial judging and finalist list completed
    Telephonic Interviews
    with finalists
    As per https://www.genderawards.com/awards-application-process/
    6/7 July Equal Representation and Participation
    8/9 July Investing in Young Women
    13/14 July Economic Empowerment
    15/16 July Women on Boards, Women in Multinationals, Gender reporting by JSE-Listed
    Companies
    20/21 July Women Empowerment in the Workplace
    22/23 July Women Empowerment in the Community
    27/28 July Inclusive Leader
    29/30 July Positive Role Model
    2 August Notification of finalists for the national Gender Mainstreaming Awards ceremony.
    Finalists submit hi-res company logo and/or hi-res photos. Finalists agree to use of logos and photos for marketing purposes (specifications to be provided).
    9 September 2021 Gender Mainstreaming Awards
    Other deadline dates on:
    https://www.genderawards.com/awards-application-process/
    ABOUT THE GENDER MAINSTREAMING AWARDS 2021

Business Engage introduced the Gender Mainstreaming Awards to encourage private sector to buy-in to achieving more meaningful representation of women in the mainstream of business. There are various categories to fit in with the level of diversity that companies are currently at. As gender diversity is still fairly new worldwide Business Engage understands that many companies are just starting on their journey. Companies and individuals in East, West and Southern Africa are encouraged to use the awards as a springboard to further achievements. There is no cost to submitting an application. All applications are done online at www.genderawards.com

ABOUT ACCENTURE
Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Interactive, Technology and Operations services — all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 569,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities.

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Cameroon: Mary Atabong “Mami Politique” Khumbah Celebrates 88th Birthday in Grand Style
July 3, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Mary Atabong with Bishop Michael Bibi (R) and ArchBishop Fontem Esua (L)

Nicknamed “Mami Politique” for her political engagements and also her fight for the rights of the girl child and the woman especially in her native village, Mary Atabong Khumbah has celebrated her 88th birthday in grand style. 

Mami Politique as she is fondly called helped to remove Lebialem from Manyu Division and become an autonomous Division according to reports. She witnessed the birth of CPDM where she served as WCPDM section president in Fontem.

The three-part celebration began with a mass on July 2 at the St Martin Pores Church Bokwango with ArchBishop Fontem Esua and Bishop Michael Bibi officiating. The second part still on June 2 involved a fun night at Mountain Hotel Club while the celebration concludes June 3 with a cultural jamboree. 

Her family, friends, relatives and those connected in one way or the other to the family came out at mass to accompany a woman that has created an immense impact on her community and the country of Cameroon as a whole.

Mami Mary Atabong has been ill for some time now and came to the celebration in a wheelchair. Despite being ill, she could be seen smiling and in a joyous mood.

Mary Atabong Khumbah was joined in celebration by family and close friends

Bishop Michael Bibi, Bishop of Buea called for God’s blessings upon her and for her to be strengthened so she could see her 90th birthday and also her century. “We pray that she will not get tired in doing the will of God and thanking him for his goodness,” Bishop Michael Bibi said.

Speaking during the Mass, one of her sons, who represented the family, said the family has been touched by the magnitude of people who came out to celebrate her birthday. He also extended words of gratitude to the Church who has been there for her. As their support, the family pledged a contribution of FCFA Five million to support the construction of the co-cathedral in Molyko.

A fighter against “male prejudice”

A few African women; too few of them – can say, “I stood up against male prejudice.” Mary Atabong Khumba, popularly known as ‘Mami Politik’, did just that in the 1950s.

She said ‘no’ to male chauvinism and took her fellow women from the limitation of housewifery and childbearing. It was a classic struggle for Mami Politik’s desire to see fellow women receive education and be able to enjoy better lives as much as possible just like men.

“We went around telling fellow women to unite themselves and work hard and not depend on all on men. We empowered them not to depend all on men because if we depend all on men, we’ll not have a way out,” Mary Atabong disclosed to Footprint Magazine. “But anyway, we did it the normal way –by accepting our situation as housewives to bear and raise children, work in our farms to feed children and our families.”

Who is Mary Atabong?

Mary Atabong was born on July 2, 1933, at Mankem in the present-day Lebialem Division. Her school days began at the Roman Catholic School Mbengwi. From 1944 to 1950, she completed her standard six at the Saint Theresa School in Fiango, Kumba; the lone girl among boys.

She said she would have like to have continued her education, which would have meant her living in the regional centre of Mamfe or elsewhere in Cameroon, as there were no secondary schools within Lebang but never managed to do so as her father would not allow this.

For any girl-child born and growing in Lebialem in those days, school-going was a taboo; getting married off at a young age and making babies was ideal in many households.

A strong showing of unconditional love for Mami Mary Atabong from her children at the celebration

“It was a very big challenge for me that I refused to go and marry a plantation worker. At that time, all my friends had married and people were challenging my father, saying, “‘this girl is very heady; she is refusing to get married.’ So my father was so offended and I told him, ‘please, papa, I don’t want to get married, my friends are going to Nigeria to do training in nursing, teaching. I want to do the same,” She disclosed to Footprint Magazine.

Her wish of furthering her studies will, however, not come to pass as she will later give in and got married to David Amingwa Khumbah, a teacher by profession.

“… I did not mind; I accepted. I stayed for about two years and after that, I got married to a teacher. We made our lives worth living and I started having children,” Mami Mary recalls.

Traditional rulers from Lebialem turned up in full force to celebrate the devoted community leader and pioneer of women emancipation

David and Mary had eight children (six girls and two boys) who by 2005 had produced some twenty-five grandchildren. According to reports, only Mary, one daughter and a few grandchildren are residents in Cameroon with the majority all highly accomplished and residing in diverse parts of the globe.

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Merck Foundation calls for action together with 13 African First Ladies and 27 Ministers to Build Healthcare Capacity, Break the Infertility Stigma and Support Girl Education at their annual conference.
June 22, 2021 | 0 Comments

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA, conducted the 8th Edition of “Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary” 2021, through an online video conference.

Merck foundation “More than a Mother” Ambassadors, African First Ladies of Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Namibia actively participated in the 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary which was co-chaired by Zambia First Lady, H.E. ESTHER LUNGU and Merck Foundation CEO, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA, conducted the 8th Edition of “Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary” 2021, through an online video conference.

The conference was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.

During the Luminary, Merck Foundation CEO & President of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized, “ “I am very proud to have 20 African First Ladies partnered with Merck Foundation and become Ambassadors of our unique and historic campaign “Merck Foundation more than a Mother” to empower infertile women, eliminate the stigma around infertility and empower girls and women in education, in their countries. During the Luminary, the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Committee (MFFLI) was also conducted to discuss, follow up and monitor the ongoing programs that also include healthcare capacity building. We have so far provided scholarships in various medical specialties to 1100 Doctors from 42 countries.”

The keynote address at the 8th edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary was delivered by H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGUThe First Lady of Zambia along with:

  • H.E. Mrs. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady Of Angola
  • H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady Of Botswana
  • H.E. Madam SIKA KABORE, The First Lady Of Burkina Faso
  • H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady Of Burundi
  • H.E. Madam BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady Of Central African Republic
  • H.E. Madam DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady Of The Democratic Republic Of The Congo
  • H.E. Mrs. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady Of Ghana
  • H.E. Madam DJÈNÈ CONDÉ, The First Lady Of Guinea Conakry
  • H.E. Mrs. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady Of Liberia
  • H.E. Mrs. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady Of Malawi
  • H.E. Mrs. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady Of Mozambique and
  • H.E. Mrs. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady Of Namibia

H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia


During her welcome speech, H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGUThe First Lady of Zambia & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother stated, “I am delighted to host this prestigious conference. I am very proud of our partnership with Merck Foundation through which we have been able to achieve many outcomes in the country for the social and economic welfare of our people. Through my ambassadorship of Merck Foundation More than a Mother, we have been able to launch many initiatives to sensitize our communities about the sensitive issue of infertility and the stigma attached to it, and also emphasize on the importance of girls’ education. Moreover, we are reshaping the healthcare landscape of Zambia, as together we have enrolled and provided training to more than 90 young doctors from all provinces with specialty training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory, Acute medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Fertility and Embryology. We are scaling up to more doctors and more critical specialties such as; Paediatric, Internal Medicines, and gastroenterology.” Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Mrs. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady of Angola



H.E. Mrs. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady of Angola emphasized, “I am happy to virtually meet and join my sisters, First Ladies of Africa, as a Guest of Honour for the 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary. we are working with Merck Foundation to shape the “Educating Linda” Program which aims to empower girls through education and eliminate child marriage and early pregnancy, this cause is very close to my heart and I consider it one of my main objectives as I strongly believe that Education is one of the most critical areas of women empowerment”. Link to her full speech here

H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana

H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother said ”We started our partnership with Merck Foundation in 2018 and since then we have achieved very important milestones and we made a concrete impact in building quality and equitable healthcare capacity, advocation to break the stigma of infertility, and stopping Gender-Based Violence. Together we provided scholarships to more than 39 local Doctors in Botswana in different critical specialties which improve women’s health and advanced reproductive care in addition to advancing healthcare in many critical fields such as: Oncology, Endocrinology, Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Incentive Care and more”.Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Madam SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso

H.E. Madam SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother stated “I am also very proud to be appointed the Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother, to empower infertile women through access to information, education, change of mindset, and economic empowerment and empower our girls through education. I am looking forward to starting our important long-term partnership with Merck Foundation and we are ready to capitalize on these valuable programs by scaling them up nationwide to contribute to the social and economic development of Burkina Faso”.Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi

H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother said “I am very proud of our partnership with Merck Foundation. Through our long-term partnership with Merck Foundation, 33 doctors have benefitted from the scholarships that Merck Foundation is providing in Oncology, Fertility specialty, embryology and reproductive and sexual medicines and Diabetes management. We will continue to work closely with Merck Foundation to create a culture shift with the aim to support girl education and empower women through access to education, health and change of mindset through media training and media awards, children storybooks, songs and films & fashion awards, and other innovative initiatives.”Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Madam BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic

H.E. Madam BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother emphasized “We started our partnership with Merck Foundation in 2016, to advance the healthcare sector and empower infertile women in my country. Together, we initiated an important project “Empowering Berna” where we established small businesses for infertile women and train them to run their businesses so they can have income and become independent. Their lives have transformed since then. We are planning to provide school fees for 20 girls every year.  Moreover, so far we have enrolled 13 local doctors in specialty training of oncology and diabetes and I will continue working closely with our ministry of health to identify the right candidates who will join the oncology, diabetes and fertility training and fellowship”. Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Madam DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of the Democratic Republic of The Congo

H.E. Madam DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of the Democratic Republic of The Congo & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother said“I am extremely happy to be a part of this platform. I am happy with the impact we have had in a very short time. We have enrolled more than 40 doctors in various specialties. 7 have been enrolled for fertility and embryology training, 1 for oncology and more than 32 doctors, representing each province in DRC, have been enrolled for diabetes specialty training. After completing the training, these doctors will transform the Diabetes care in my country”. Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Mrs. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana

H.E. Mrs. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother emphasized, “I have been working closely with Merck Foundation to empower infertile women as the attitude of the people towards these women is not progressive or informed. I am honoured to be the Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, through this campaign I intend to help the women of my country. Moreover, we have been able to provide more than 60 doctors with scholarships for specialty training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory, acute medicines, sexual and reproductive medicines, Fertility and embryology. All these fields are very critical to our country.  This will certainly contribute to our battle against coronavirus and other diseases”. Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Madam DJÈNÈ CONDÉ, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry

H.E. Madam DJÈNÈ CONDÉ, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother explained, “I am delighted to share the magnificent outcomes of my long-term partnership with Merck Foundation. Together we have been able to empower infertile women through access to information, education, health, and change of mindset and establishing small businesses for them through the “Empowering Berna” program. Also, we have enrolled 18 local doctors into Merck Foundation Scholarship of different specialties; Oncology, Diabetes and Fertility & Embryology to be the first in the country in these fields. I feel proud to say that we are making history with Merck Foundation in our country at many levels”. Link to her full speech here.

H.E. Mrs. CLAR MARIE WEAH

H.E. Mrs. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother said, “On behalf of people of Liberia, I welcome the long-term partnership with Merck Foundation to build health care capacity, the importance of which we realized more during this uncertain time. We are fortunate to have the programs of Merck Foundation in our country, which strongly focus on building our healthcare capacity and train our healthcare providers at all levels, more than 35 Liberian Doctors have benefited from scholarships of specialty training, of one-year diploma and two-year master degree in many critical and underserved specialties such as: Diabetes, Cardiovascular Preventive, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines, Oncology and Fertility Specialists & Embryology Training and in the future in Paediatric, Internal Medicine, Advanced Surgery, Orthopedic, Psychiatry, Pain Management and Opthalmology. This is history in the making”. Link to her full speech here



H.E. Mrs. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother expressed, “I am extremely happy of my partnership with Merck Foundation. Together, we have so far provides more than 16 local doctors with the scholarship of online one-year diploma and two year master degree in many needed medical specialties such as Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines, they are currently undergoing their studies. And we are working with Ministry of Health to select the next batches for more specialities. Also, I am particularly very excited about our joint initiative “Educating Linda” where we are sponsoring the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools till they graduate. I believe that Education is Power, and educating girls is empowering them to make their own decision and be independent”. Link to her full speech here



H.E. Mrs. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother emphasized, “Together with Merck Foundation, I am fully committed to will work closely to introduce innovative ideas that will engage different sectors to create a culture shift with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and make a great impact in a short time. Currently, we have 14 doctors from each provenance who enrolled in the Diabetes Master Course for the first time in Portuguese, through Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Program. We will soon enroll doctors for training in other specialties too”.Link to her full speech here



H.E. Mrs. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother said “I am very happy to share the impact of our partnership with Merck Foundation, More than 37 local young Namibian doctors will be provided with one-year online diploma from South Wales University, in the fields of Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines, Acute Medicines and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines. We will establish our first local platform of specialists and experts in those fields which is very important to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare to Coronavirus Patients and risk groups too. For Namibia, 2.4 M population, we will soon have more than 11 skilled and trained doctors to assist couples living with infertility or need any sexual & reproductive help, this will be a significant contribution that I am proud of as an Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother. We are also worth closely with Merck Foundation to raise awareness about breaking Infertility stigma and encourage couples to support each other’s during the journey of making happy family ”. Link to her full speech here

About ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ campaign:

“Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe, effective and equitable fertility care solutions. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

With “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility at all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child.

The Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” are:

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI,
The First Lady Of Botswana
H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady Of The GambiaH.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady Of Namibia
H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady Of Burkina FasoH.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady Of GhanaH.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady Of Nigeria
H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE,

The First Lady Of Burundi
H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady Of Guinea ConakryH.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady Of Sierra Leone
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady Of Central African RepublicH.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady Of LiberiaH.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady Of Zambia
H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady Of Congo BrazzavilleH.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady Of MalawiH.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady Of Zimbabwe
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady Of Democratic Republic Of CongoH.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady Of Mozambique
The Former First Lady Of Burundi, H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady Of Chad, H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, The Former First Lady Of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA And The Former First Lady Of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU Have Worked Successfully With Merck Foundation As Merck Foundation More Than A Mother Ambassadors To Break The Stigma Of Infertility And Empower Infertile Women In Their Countries.

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck Foundation More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as:

  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Africa Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Film Awards
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Song Awards
  • Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
  • Children storybook, localized for each country


About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.  Please visit www.Merck-Foundation.com to read more. To know more, reach out to our social media: https://bit.ly/3d045R4https://bit.ly/32YFKpvhttps://bit.ly/2TeOQNjhttps://bit.ly/3g6OYr3https://bit.ly/3gKF26M and https://bit.ly/2Tay0Pu.

*SOURCE Merck Foundation

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies announce “More Than a Mother” Africa Song Awards 2021 to support girl education.
June 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

In partnership with African First Ladies, other awards have also been announced such as; ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Film Awards, Fashion Awards and Media Recognition Awards.

Merck Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany introduced their new award, the Merck Foundation Africa Song Award  ‘More Than a Mother’ 2021 in partnership with African First Ladies who are also  the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother, for All African Singers, Musical Artists and emerging talents, to create a song with the aim to raise awareness about Empowering  Girls and Women through Education at all levels.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother expressed, “This is the first time we have launched the Merck Foundation Africa Song Award ‘More Than a Mother’. I am very excited to introduce this award in partnership with my dear sisters African First Ladies. The continent is known for its versatile music artists and talents who have been instrumental in communicating messages and spreading awareness on various issues. Music and Art have the capacity and influence to make the problem felt, which further stimulates emotions and leads to engagement and action. Hence we used this medium and introduced these awards to encourage the music composers and singers to create songs to raise awareness on the importance of girl education and empowering girls and women at all levels”.

“I strongly believe that Music has the power to touch the hearts of people. Music has the ability to bind communities and bring about a cultural shift in the society. We have produced and launched more than 20 songs with famous singers from Burundi, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Gambia to raise awareness about male infertility and to break the Stigma around Infertility in Africa. Moreover, it is also an honor for us to have The President of Liberia, H.E. GEORGE WEAH and the Former First Lady of Burundi do their own songs for our Merck Foundation More Than a Mother campaign. Through the Song Awards, we aim to spread awareness on important issues of girl education and women empowerment in the African continent”, added Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej. Merck Foundation strongly believes that Education is one of the most critical areas of women empowerment. Merck Foundation’s ‘Educating Linda’ program helps young girls who are unprivileged but brilliant to continue their education. The spirit of the project is to provide an opportunity to such girls to pursue their dreams and reach their potential through access to education. It has been seen that many girls drop out of school due to lack of necessities such as fees and uniform.



Merck Foundation Educating Linda program has contributed to the future of 100’s of girls in partnership with the African First Ladies as part of ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ campaign.

Please click on the links below to listen to songs created by Merck Foundation:

Details about Merck Foundation Africa Song Awards ‘More Than a Mother’ 2021

Who can apply?

All African Singers and Musical Artists are invited to create and share a SONG on MP3 with the aim to Empower Girls and Women through Education and at all levels.

Last Date of Submission

30th August 2021

How to Apply?

Please share your work as an Audio File or YouTube link on: submit@Merck-Foundation.com.

The Subject line of the mail should mention: Merck Foundation Song Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021

Please specify your name, country and contact details in the mail.

Prize Money:

PositionFirst AwardSecond AwardThird Award
Prize moneyUSD 1000USD 700USD 500


The Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” are

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI,
The First Lady of Botswana
H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The GambiaH.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia
H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina FasoH.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of GhanaH.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria
H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE,

The First Lady of Burundi
H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea ConakryH.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African RepublicH.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of LiberiaH.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia
H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo BrazzavilleH.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of MalawiH.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady of Democratic Republic of CongoH.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique
The Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady of Chad, H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, The Former First Lady of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA and The Former First Lady of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU have worked successfully with Merck Foundation as Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Ambassadors to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries.

‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Africa Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training.Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck Foundation More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as:

  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Africa Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training.
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards.
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Film Awards.
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Song Awards.
  • Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it.
  • Children storybook, localized for each country.

About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.  Please visit www.merck-foundation.com to read more. To know more, reach out to our social media: Merck Foundation (https://Merck-Foundation.com); Facebook (https://bit.ly/32YFKpv), Twitter (https://bit.ly/2TeOQNj), Instagram (https://bit.ly/3g6OYr3), YouTube (https://bit.ly/3zc3up1) and Flicker (https://bit.ly/2Tay0Pu).

About ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ campaign:
“Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe, effective and equitable fertility care solutions. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries. With “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility at all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child.

SOURCE
Merck Foundation

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Modupe Adeyinka-Oni: Celebrating a Nigerian Education Icon
June 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Our Reporter

When she made the list for the 2021 African DOers awards, it was not a surprise. For discerning observers of trends on the Nigerian education circuit, the response was rather: why did it take so long for her to be recognised and honoured?

Modupe Adeyinka-Oni is a teacher of teachers. And she has been active in the field for as long as four decades. A former long-time player within the prestigious Corona Schools team, she is one who is generally always in search of value. Getting value, adding value and sharing value is first nature for her. That is essentially how she is wired.

24 years ago, when she saw a need to focus more intently on the specific needs of individual readers, she pulled out of the Corona Schools System to start Standard Bearers School, Lekki, Lagos.

Now her sights are set on improving overall capacity in the educational system. And she is working with two principal points of focus: building greater teacher capacity and using technology more powerfully.

Part of her motivation comes from a desire to give back to a system that has been quite generous to and served her through the years. But there is also a strand of her inspiration that comes from her appreciation of the basic reality that Nigeria as a nation and Africa as a continent would only be building a castle of sand if plans are not made to ensure the best educational possibilities for the many in our midst that are deprived and disadvantaged.

This is what has engaged her for almost a decade now, working with other like-minded professionals in helping to raise teacher standard in the less affluent private schools in the Lagos area; those whose children pay fees of about N20-25,000.00 (40 to 50 dollars) a term.

Some of the communities whose schools have benefited from these engagements are in the Ijesha and Ogudu suburbs of Africa’s most populous megacity. And the results have indeed been quite notable.

Currently, she is engaged in using ground-breaking but available technology to reach out to even more communities across Nigeria, and at this time also, to directly engage and teach the students themselves.

Of special interest for her at this time too are children from poor communities and the rising bands of IDP children who are victims of the many conflicts that have broken out across the country in more recent years. A pilot project was undertaken in the Federal Capital Territory a few days ago and all systems are presently being fine-tuned to ensure full deployment in the next few weeks.

Adeyinka-Oni is grateful for the help and support of her many partners, sponsors and associates who are collaborating with her on the field. Appreciating that the task at hand is indeed very daunting, she however believes that because it has to be done, she would not be deterred. ‘We will keep going on. It will all be well.’ Such single minded devotion. Such exemplary demonstration of resolve. May it indeed be well.

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Sierra Leone: Presidential Hopeful Fatmata Binta Jalloh Calls For Calm As SU Elections Are Postponed
May 26, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

One of the Presidential aspirants in the Fourah Bay College Students’ Union Government Elections, Fatmata Binta Jalloh has expressed disappointment over the unexpected postponement of the Elections by the college administration.

The elections which were slated for Friday 28th May 2021 will now hold on June 2nd 2021.

In an official statement, the presidential hopeful called on her supporters to remain calm and exercise restraint as she and her team take steps to constructively engage the relevant authorities further on reasons for the deferment adding that her team will take all steps necessary to initiate dialogue with the administration for a speedy and amicable outcome in the best interest of students. 

“I wish to express, in unequivocal terms, my disappointment with this latest development. In particular, my team deplores the lack of consultation by the University with the aspirants and the wider student populace. We also express regrets that the said notice failed to provide any information on the reason for such a postponement,’’ the statement reads.

According to the statement, it said that a notice shared on social media and signed by the Office of the Warden of Students, in which the University said it had reached the decision to defer the election for the Students’ Union Presidency to the second week of the second semester following a meeting of the Administration and the Elections Management Committee. 

‘’Fourah Bay College has waited for over 190 years to elect its first female president. I am confident that I represent the best chance that the students of Fourah Bay College have at realizing that dream. Though this historic moment might have received a temporary delay, I am certain that the future is bright and female and it is Binta!’’ Madam Fatmata Binta Jalloh said.

The Presidential hopeful however called on all students to be patience and urged them to ‘’just hang in there a little! Positive Change that will cater for the “General Good” and not just the “Chosen Few” is coming!.

Meanwhile, a statement from the University of Sierra Leone Media Directorate on Tuesday said the SU elections at FBC will be held on Wednesday 2nd June 2021 adding that nomination process has completed and the warden of students has provided the list of all students aspiring for the presidency.

‘’The Administration is compiling the voters’ list in order to exhibit them within a reasonable time as a prerequisite for free and fair elections. The administration will be meeting with the aspirants tomorrow at 10:30 am to deliberate further rules of engagement,’’ the statement reads. 

The statement from the University Media Directorate urged students to remain calm in the interest of peace, security and stability.

If Wednesday’s poll go as planned, this will be very historic as for the first time in almost two hundred years since FBC was founded, a female president will take up the mantle of leadership of student at Aureol.  The winner will inherit several problems which students have faced for decades from insufficient class rooms, electricity problem, and lack of water running facilities on campus among others. The winner of the polls will succeed Augustine Bona.

 Fourah Bay College is the oldest University in sub-Saharan Africa founded by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1827.

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Seeking Africa’s superwomen – Africa’s Business Heroes 2021
May 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

Chebet Lesan Winner ABH 2020

The face of female entrepreneurship may be changing across Africa, but access to funding continues to be unequal, with an estimated USD 42 billion finance gap. This doesn’t seem to deter women from seeking income-generation opportunities – Africa has some of the highest percentages of female-led businesses in the world, including the top three countries – Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%) and Ghana (36.5%).

Limited access to finance has an impact on growth and business success; data gathered by the World Bank indicates male-owned enterprises in 10 African countries on average have six times the capital of those owned by women and enjoy 38% higher monthly profits.

With the multiple challenges currently facing women entrepreneurs across the continent, the Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) competition, is good news. Now in its third year, the annual competition, a philanthropic initiative of the Jack Ma Foundation, pursues an inclusive and grassroots agenda, and it is open to entrepreneurs of any gender, age or background. Ten finalists will win a share of USD 1.5 million in grant funding, and all participants will be able to access training, mentorship, global visibility and to be part of a network of business leaders. Aspiring candidates have until June 7 to apply for the 2021 edition, in English or French.

Zahra Baitie-Boateng, is Head of Partnerships and Programmes with the Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition

The 2021 theme is ‘It’s African Time’. “We want to highlight the people who are driving innovation, challenging stereotypes and solving problems,” says Zahra Baitie-Boateng, ABH Head of Partnerships and Programmes. “We’re particularly interested in businesses that are addressing societal challenges and helping achieve the UN sustainable development goals.”

According to Baitie-Boateng, women’s participation is a top priority: “We are committed to inclusion and thrilled to see growing numbers of women applying and succeeding. Last year, half of our top 50 finalists were women – a 24% increase from 2019. Their stories show how women in Africa are successfully pursuing their business dreams.”

Since the competition started in 2019, both first-place winners have been women: Nigeria’s Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO of LifeBank an innovative medical distribution supply company and Chebet Lesan, founder of Bright Green Renewable Energy, a Kenyan company that is saving lives and protecting the planet with energy-efficient biofuel blocks.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO of LifeBank

Between 2019 and 2020, a total of eight winning women have made it to the Africa’s Business Heroes top 10 so far. All are unanimous that participating has benefited them personally and professionally.

Lesan’s winning grant of USD 300,000 in 2020 enabled her to expand Bright Green’s operations beyond Kenyan borders. She believes the true value of the competition is much more than monetary, it’s a vehicle to reach a far wider audience. “Africa is not short of talent and ideas, there is a big opportunity for growth. ABH highlights the brilliance, determination, and capabilities of the African people. There are many exceptional businesses in this continent. If you have built a business, and it’s working, the world needs to know. I encourage young entrepreneurs to use ABH as a platform to tell your story. ”

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, of LifeBank, Nigeria, shares a similar experience, after winning USD 250, 000 in 2019. “Since the competition, LifeBank has experienced tremendous growth and our revenue has doubled. We are now expanding to more African countries and plan to reach across the continent. I am forever grateful to the ABH team as they not only supported us with the prize fund but also continue to follow up on the community of entrepreneurs afterwards. When I watch my pitch on the recording of the ABH grand finale show, I am reminded of the key lessons and the importance of not growing too quickly.”

Mupambwa, co-founder and executive director of Moneymart in Zimbabwe was second runner up in 2020

For second runner up in 2020 Ethel Mupambwa, co-founder and executive director of Moneymart in Zimbabwe, limited access to finance was the inspiration to start her business. “Fortune favours the brave! Be a solution provider Challenging times provide vast opportunities; those challenges need a generation to solve them. The first step is to believe and start.

Mupambwa treasures the advice, feedback and support given by the ABH judges: “The ABH mentorship did not just prepare me for the grand finale, it prepared me for life. I would not get such world-class mentorship if l had not entered the competition.”

“To those wishing to participate in 2021, please show up. Do not underestimate the vision you have, your passion, and the impact you are making in your society. You have all that it takes, and we are cheering you on from the terraces.”

Mame Diarra Bousso Gueye from Senegal, founder of DIARRABLU

Mame Diarra Bousso Gueye from Senegal, founder of consciouslifestyle brand DIARRABLU, sees the ABH competition as an enormous opportunity. “To anyone thinking about pursuing entrepreneurship or applying to ABH 2021, my advice is to go for it. You never lose, you either win or learn and what you learn can help you win even bigger later.”

Kevine Kagirimpundu, the co-founder of eco-friendly shoe brand UZURI K&Y was a finalist in 2019

2019 finalist Kevine Kagirimpundu, the co-founder of eco-friendly shoe brand UZURI K&Y in Rwanda, also experienced easier access to funding after taking part, over and above her winning grant: “Strive Masiyiwa, one of the judges, introduced us to a very important contact who has been helping us raise more investment. We are now close to building our factory for completion in 2022.” She encourages everyone to enter: “There’s great potential and opportunities for all participants.”

Christelle Kwizera, third place winner in 2019, is the founder of the social enterprise Water Access Rwanda

Mechanical engineer and social entrepreneur Christelle Kwizera, third place winner in 2019, is the founder of the social enterprise Water Access Rwanda, which transforms broken boreholes into state-of-the-art solar-powered water kiosks and pipelines. For her, the best thing to come out of the competition has been the relationships formed with fellow entrepreneurs. “The prize has not only enabled us to survive through many challenges brought about by Covid-19 but also created for us a lot of connections beyond Africa which has resulted in further funding and opportunities from global players. Using the funding we received, we are now servicing more people, targeting 30 million families with clean water and creating over 13,000 jobs in the coming years. It’s a rare opportunity.”

Joan Rukundo Nalubega started her organic soap social enterprise Uganics, to fight malaria and save lives

Joan Rukundo Nalubega started her organic soap social enterprise Uganics, to fight malaria and save lives. “Entrepreneurship is more than starting a business. It is doing something beyond yourself with a willingness and openness to take risks. Young people on the continent, and especially in Uganda, are tackling the problems that were once their nightmares. They are learning, adapting, collaborating, and innovating to find solutions and ultimately become drivers of the change we want to see.”

Nalubega’s advice to people considering entering in 2021: “Apply and be honest, be you. Believe in yourself and put your best foot forward. It is a big competition, and you must stay true to your business and what makes it stand out. You should understand your business at an expert level. Knowing your numbers – financials and your impact – will get you far.”

Dr Emma Naluyima Mugerwa, an ABH finalist in 2020 is founder of MST Junior School in Uganda

Dr Emma Naluyima Mugerwa, an ABH finalist in 2020 and founder of  MST Junior School in Uganda, saw the educational institution as a practical solution to the country’s problem of youth unemployment. “Entrepreneurship is the ability to look at a challenge in your community and think of ways to tackle it while making money. 70% of Africa are youth and many – about three-quarters – do not find jobs after school. This is a massive opportunity, to skill the youth and create a future workforce.”

Mugerwa encourages businesswomen to subscribe to a digital future: “Use social media platforms often, to promote your enterprise and to scout online for opportunities. This is how I landed on the ABH launch announcement during the pandemic.” To prepare her learners for today’s world, Mugerwa invested her prize grant into extending the school’s technology capabilities.

“Entrepreneurial success is key to Africa’s development,” said Baitie-Boateng. “We encourage the women who are succeeding, despite the challenges, to enter this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes before June 7, for unparalleled support that can take their business to a new level.”

How to enter Africa’s Business Heroes 2021

To be eligible to enter the Africa’s Business Heroes 2021, you must be the founder or co-founder of a business based in Africa that has been running for at least three years. African entrepreneurs from all sectors, age groups and genders are welcome, particularly people who are making a positive difference in their communities. Successful applicants go through several evaluation rounds before a grand finale at the end of the year. The top 10 finalists win a share of the USD 1.5 million grant funding, as well as access to training, mentorship, and a dynamic community of international leaders, experts, investors, and accelerators.

For details or to apply visit https://africabusinessheroes.org/en/the-prize/overview

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References

  • 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs – according to the 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Africa has the world’s top three countries when it comes to women entrepreneurs (as a percentage): Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%) and Ghana (36.5%).
  • According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2019/20 sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs globally with approximately 26% of female adults engaged in entrepreneurial activity.

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Merck Foundation CEO and Botswana First Lady inaugurate STOP GBV posters awards ceremony together as part of “More than a Mother” Campaign
May 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

21st May 2021, Gaborone, Botswana: Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, together with H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana and Ambassador of Merck More Than A Mother, announced the winners of “Stop GBV” Best Poster Contest during award ceremony. The Poster Contest was held with the aim to prevent Gender-Based Violence and child abuse in Botswana.

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees was the Guest of Honor of the ceremony to support the program and advocate for ending Gender-Nased Violence in Botswana and rest of Africa as part of Merck Foundation More than a Mother campaign.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck More Than A Mother, who joined the award ceremony virtually, emphasized “I am proud to announce the winners  of “Stop GBV” Best Poster Contest together with my dear sister H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana and Ambassador of Merck More Than A Mother. We have worked with the jury committee to select the most creative and inspiring work advocating one of the key contest objectives. This initiative is part of Merck foundation more than a Mother campaign.

In 2020, I virtually joined the Botswana First Lady, during her cycling tour to STOP GBV and marked the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls together. I salute my dear sister, The First Lady of Botswana, for her great efforts and innovative idea to stop Gender-Based Violence and encourage us to take a stand against GBV and child abuse”.

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana and Ambassador of Merck More Than A Mother said, “We launched the “Stop GBV” Poster Contest together with Merck Foundation, so as to advocate against Gender-Based Violence in Botswana. I am very happy to award the winners, who have shared some brilliant work. We will continue our joint efforts to fight against GBV, protect humanity, especially the girls and women. The COVID pandemic gave rise to violence against girls, women and children. GBV has destroyed families and promoted disunity within communities, both at national and international level; and this initiative to demonstrate our effort to fight for this cause, and eradicate GBV from our societies.”

The “Stop GBV” Poster Contest was held across Botswana and the aim of the contest was to select the most creative and inspiring work. The contest objectives were: 1) Stop Gender-Based Violence, 2) Take a stand against GBV and child abuse, 3) Help people understand that GBV is unacceptable and evil, 4) Promote Zero tolerance of GBV, and 5) Demonstrate that GBV can be emotional, financial, physical, and sexual.

“I am looking forward to joining the next cycling tour and to launch the second edition of this poster contest in partnership with the First Lady of Botswana in 2021”, added Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation will also continue to build healthcare capacity by providing Merck Foundation scholarships of one year diploma and two year master degree in many Medical specialities with the aim to transform the healthcare landscape and improve patient care in Botswana, specially during coronavirus pandemic.

“We have provided till today scholarships to more than 39 Doctors in Botswana in different critical specialities such as: Oncology, Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines, Acute Medicines and Sexual and Reproductive, which is also very important to advancing women health and reproductive health. It is very critical to empower girls and women against many challenges and specially against GBV. Access to health, awareness and education is an important key to stop gender-based violence”, explained Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Link to the Live Streamimg of the award ceremony: https://fb.watch/5AK0UvEgoa/

The first three award winners of the “STOP GBV” Poster Contest are:

First Position: TAMUCHA TULU

Second Position: ELIJAH MAPHAKELA

Third Position:  MOHUMAGADI MORUTI

Moreover, the below 10 winners were awarded with a Sspecial Award:

1.         TSOTLHE MORAKENYANE

2.         THANDIE SIBANDA

3.         THAPELO LETSHWITI

4.         SADE. S RABASHA

5.         THATAYAMODIMO THEKISO

6.         TRUDY BAKWENA

7.         MALEBOGO W. RANTLHOTSE

8.         KUMBULANI MACHOLA

9.         TSHEPANG MOGOTSI

10.      MAIKANO MOJIWA

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We Will Be Part Of Africa’s History; This Is Our Legacy-Senator Rasha Kelej on the Merck Foundation Africa Nexus.
May 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Relentless efforts from Senator Dr Kelej and the Merck Foundation to network with African First Ladies to address diverse health issues are yielding dividends

We envision working closely with our partners that are African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building and transforming healthcare capacity, and addressing health, social & economic challenges in our beautiful continent, says Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.

Buoyed by the robust nature of the partnership and the success of the recent Africa -Asia Luminary which held virtually for the first time, Senator Dr Kelej says, the Merck foundation is committed to making history with the transformation of the public healthcare sector in Africa. In sight are training of an army of thousands of well-trained specialized Doctors who will save millions of lives in the continent.

This is my commitment as long as I live, and this is our Merck Foundation vision, says Senator Dr Kelej in an exclusive interview with PAV to review the recent 8th edition of the Africa -Asia Luminary, the depth of Merck Foundation partnerships and operations across Africa and other major projects in the pipeline.

Senator Dr Rasha Kelej what are your impressions after the 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary?

Senator Dr Kelej: Very very proud of our success. Our annual conference for the first time online due to coronavirus pandemic, however it was even more successful than actual conferences. Everyone was extremely engaged and committed. And of course, we had livestream with 100,000 attendees and more from 70 countries, we have more than 300, 000 viewers on our social media channels. The conference as you know was in partnership with the Government of Zambia. And was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees; and co-chaired by H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of the Republic of Zambia and myself. It is a great honor.

I am very proud to share that 13 African First Ladies participated as guests of honor. The First Ladies of Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Namibia, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother.

Over 26 African Ministers of different sectors also joined us on the second day, during the high-level ministry’s panel with African Union. Together, we discussed our strategy to define interventions to break infertility stigma and support girl education; and to build healthcare and research capacity and establish a strong platform of specialized trained medical experts in many critical and underserved fields to be the first in their countries. I am very proud that we have so far provided for more than 1100 Doctors from 42 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America with one & two-, three-year specialty training in multiple fields such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Human Assisted Reproduction and Embryology & Fertility specialty, to be the first in their countries. Moreover, we have now widened our horizons by introducing more scholarships for young doctors in many new underserved specialties across Africa and Asia.

The reach and impact of our 8th edition conference has been great. Even Better than previous editions.  

On Day 2 of the conference, MARS- Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit was held where a High-Level Panel Discussion with 26 African Ministers of Health, Science and Technology, Education, Information and Gender and MARS Researchers was held with the objective to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and empower them in STEM. Parallel to this we had other three scientific sessions of diabetes, cardiology, oncology.

The High-level Ministerial panel included:

1) Hon. Dr. Jonas Kamima CHANDA, Minister of Health, Zambia

2) Hon. Dr. Dennis WANCHINGA, Minister of General Education, Zambia

3) Hon. Dr. Brian MUSHIMBA, Minister of Higher Education, Zambia

4) Hon. Elizabeth PHIRI, Minister of Gender, Zambia

5) Hon. Dora SILIYA, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Service, Zambia

6) Hon. Silvia Paula Lutucuta, Minister of Health, Angola

7) Hon. Dr. NDIKUMANA Thadée, Minister of Public Health & Fighting against AIDS, Burundi

8) Hon. Dr. François HAVYARIMANA, Ministre de L’Education Nationale et de la Recherche Scientifique, Burundi

9) Hon. Imelde SABUSHIMIKE, Ministre de la Solidarité Nationale, des Affaires Sociales, des Droits de la Personne Humaine et du Genre, Burundi

10) Hon. Marie Chantal NIJIMBERE, Ministre de la Communication, des Technologies de L’Information et des Médias, Republic of Burundi

11) Hon. Jacquiline Lydia Mikolo, Minister of Health & Population, Republic of the Congo

12) Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health, The Gambia

13) Hon. Ebrima SILLAH, Minister of Information, The Gambia

14) Hon. Colonel Remy Lama, Minister of Health, Guinea Conakry

15) Hon. Pr. Amadou Bano Barry, Minister of Education, Guinea Conakry

16) Hon. Amara Sompare, Minister of Information & Communication, Guinea Conkary

17) Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Minister of Health & Population, Malawi

18) Hon. Dr. Patricia Kaliati, Minister Of Gender, Community Development & Social Welfare, Republic of Malawi

19) Hon. Agnes Nyalonje, Minister Of Education, Malawi

20) Hon. Ulemu Msungama, Minister Of Youth & Sports, Malawi

21) Hon. Timoth Pagonachi Mtambo, Minister Of Civic Education & National Unity, Malawi

22) Hon. Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, Minister of Health & Social Services, Namibia

23) Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, State Minister for Health, Uganda

24) Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Publicity, Zimbabwe

25) Hon. Sthembiso Nyoni, Minster of Women Affairs Small & Medium Enterprises, Zimbabwe

26) Hon. Amon Murwira, Minister of Higher & Tertiary Education, Zimbabwe

On the third day, Merck Foundation Health Media Training was organized for the African and Latin American Media fraternity to emphasize the important role that media plays to break the stigma around infertility, in raising awareness about infertility prevention, and empowering girls and women through education. Parallel to this we had Infertility and reproductive care scientific session and respiratory and acute medicines for Covid 19 response session.

From (Left to Right) H. E. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, First Lady of Ghana, H. E Brigitte Touadera, Frist Lady of the Central Africa Republic, H. E Neo Jane Masisi, First Lady of Botswana, H. E Aissata Issoufou Mahamadou, First Lady of Niger with Senetor Dr Rasha Kelej at the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary in 2018, at Dakar, Senegal.

 How will you define the state of the partnership you have established with African first ladies over the years, what is working well, and what needs to be improved upon?

Senator Dr Kelej: I am proud to have partnered with 20 African First Ladies, who are now the Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More than a Mother” Campaign. It is an extremely successful partnership; we have achieved a lot together at all levels. Through this partnership, we continue to build healthcare capacity in their countries and empower infertile women and break the stigma around infertility and support girls’ education. Together, we have introduced many initiatives in their respective countries. This certainly speaks volumes about the work we are doing.

With the unprecedented times of COVID-19, I cannot travel and meet the First Ladies of other countries we wish to partner with. I hope the world is free of Coronavirus and the lockdown is lifted soon. However, I have been able to meet the new First Ladies to invite them to be new members of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiate – MFFLI. And they have gracefully accepted to be our Ambassadors such as New First Lady of Burundi, Malawi and DR Congo.

I have also established a new important partnership with Burkina Faso First Lady in 2020.

Here is the list of our partner African First Ladies, who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation, More Than a Mother:

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana

H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso

H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi         

H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic

H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo Brazzaville      

H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of Democratic Republic of Congo

H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia          

H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana

H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry

H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia

H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi

H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia

H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique

H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria          

H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone

H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia

H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe

The Former First Lady of Burundi, H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady of Chad, H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, The Former First Lady of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA and The Former First Lady of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU have worked successfully with Merck Foundation as Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Ambassadors to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President, Merck More Than a Mother with H:E President Hage Geingob and H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother

About thirteen African first ladies answered present at the recent Africa-Asia luminary, what are you and the Merck Foundation doing to bring more first ladies to join your initiatives?

Senator Dr Kelej: Honest sincere long-term commitment to the social health and economic development of their country and their people, programs with concrete measurable impact and not only talk. Creativity, smart focused strategy and objectives and also flawless implementation.

Always exceed expectations, all the time we exceed their expectation actually we exceed our own expectation. Therefore, I consider Merck foundation to be the most successful Foundation because we achieve even more than our set goals and exceeds our and our partners expectation and this is how you evaluate success. I consider myself the happiest person in the world because I achieved more than my goals to be part of transforming some people’s lives, but now I am part of transforming millions of people every month. Not only this but together with our partners we transformed the healthcare sector across Africa, revolutionary transformation in few years and still more to come, it is history in the making, as long as I am alive, I will do more and more for Africa. We will create an army of specialized and trained doctors we will save lives together. I want to be one day part of Africa history this will make me proud as an African woman.

I look forward to expanding our footprints and work with more African First Ladies who will help us to realize our vision.

With the challenges from COVID 19, may we know what the Merck Foundation did to help its partner countries in Africa to fight the pandemic?

Senator Dr Kelej: We raced to respond to COVID 19 and came up with many initiatives. One of the most important initiatives which I personally believe in its importance even before Covid 19 times is to continue healthcare capacity building, which has been our strategy since 2012, in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, much before the pandemic struck worldwide. Due to travel restrictions, we adopted the online medical speciality education strategy, through providing scholarships for speciality training to doctors in many medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Reproductive and sextual medicines. Moreover, we recently started to provide scholarships in many new underserved specialties including: Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Gastroenterology, Laparoscopic Surgical Skills, Mental Health: Psychological Therapies, Orthopedic Trauma Science, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Internal Medicine, Neuroimaging for research, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics. We are very proud to invite applications from African and Asian English-speaking doctors from under-served communities for these scholarships on our mail: info@merck-foundation.com

We also understand the importance of creating community awareness about Coronavirus, so we launched “Mask up with Care” and “Stay at Home” Recognition Awards for Media across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And also, “Make you Own Mask” Fashion Awards for the Fashion fraternity across Africa: I strongly believe in the critical role that Media and Art play to be the voice of the voiceless and raise awareness about sensitive topics such as breaking Infertility stigma and Covid 19 health precautions.

Also, the lockdown and restricted movement to fight coronavirus had hit most casual and daily workers very hard. Therefore, we supported the African government’s strategy to save the living and livelihood of 1000’s of families of casual workers and women who were affected the most by the lockdown or restricted movement. We invite applications from media personal and fashion designers to these two awards on email submit@merck-foundation.com

Moreover, we launched an inspiring storybook ‘Make the Right Choice’ in partnership with African First Ladies to sensitize children and youth about Coronavirus. The story aimed to raise awareness about Coronavirus prevention amongst children and youth as it provided facts about the pandemic and how to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak. It also promoted honesty, hard work, and the ability to make the right choices even during the most challenging times. We released the story in three languages: English, French and Portuguese.

Also, as my personal contribution, I have produced and directed an inspiring Pan-African song called ‘My White Army’ to thank the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus battle, who are risking exposure to the virus so everyone else can stay home and stay healthy. The song, featuring singers from 11 African countries in three languages Arabic, English, and French, has been well appreciated across the continent.

Senetor Dr Rasha Kelej in a group photograph with some Frist ladies of Africa at the Merck Foundation First Lady Initiative (MFFLI) summit 2019

 With regards to the Doctors that you train for infertility specialty and reproductive & sexual health what criteria is used in selection and what feedback are you getting from their in respective countries?

Senator Dr Kelej: Merck Foundation, through its flagship program, ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ is providing training in Fertility specialty and Reproductive Health at our partner institutes.  The scientific committee reviews the applications based on the eligibility criteria, such as Medical graduate/Post Graduates, preferably working in the Government sector, who are recommended by our partners such as the First Ladies Office, or Ministry of Health for African countries, and from the President of respective societies. Through this program, Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had Fertility specialists or specialized Fertility clinics before ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ intervention, by training the first Fertility specialists and Embryologists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Burundi and Malawi. Merck Foundation is proud to have supported the training of the staff of the first public IVF centers in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Rwanda.

Could you shed light on other initiatives that the Foundation will be working on this year, there is talk of the media awards, fashion awards and others, what is the Merck Foundation seeking to achieve with this?

Senator Dr Kelej:We announced two awards for media fraternity, Merck Foundation Africa Media Recognition Awards  “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Awards 2021; two awards for fashion fraternity, Merck Foundation Fashion Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards 2021; in addition to Merck Foundation Film Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 and Merck Foundation Song Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021 during the Merck Foundation Health Media Training that was held as a part of the 8th edition of “MERCK FOUNDATION AFRICA ASIA LUMINARY”. We invite all to apply for these awards on submit@merck-foundation.com

I strongly believe that media, art, and fashion play a significant role in raising awareness about sensitive topics like infertility, hence will contribute significantly to break the stigma around infertile women in Africa, if utilized properly. There are many infertile women out there; we witness their stories of suffering and humiliation every day, it is time to act and make a change. Through the awards under “More Than a Mother”, we would like to join hands with media, art and fashion fraternity to break the silence, be the voice of the voiceless and create a culture shift to Break Infertility Stigma, a message that must reach every door, every community, every mind, and every heart.

1. Merck Foundation More than a Mother Africa Media Recognition Awards 2021: The applications are invited by media professionals to showcase their work to raise awareness about infertility prevention and breaking infertility stigma and empower infertile women and infertile couples in our beautiful continent.

2. Merck Foundation Film Awards “More than a Mother” 2021: All African Film makers and students are invited to create and share a film drama, documentary of docudrama, short or long film to deliver strong and influential message to Break Infertility Stigma and Empowering girls and women through education at all levels. I want them to use their creativity to break the silence. Our soft power is very effective and will educate our community and make a change in short time thanks to social media and new technology of smart phones, everyone can create those own movies

3. Merck Foundation Fashion Awards “More Than a Mother” 2021: All Fashion students and designers are invited to create and share designs that deliver strong and influential messages to raise awareness about infertility prevention, Breaking Infertility Stigma and Empowering girls and women through education.

4. Merck Foundation More Than a Mother – Song Awards 2021- I welcome all African Singers and Musical Artists to create and share a song with the aim to empower Girls and Women through Education at all levels.

Given the unprecedented times and second wave of coronavirus, it is important to sensitize communities and raise awareness about following best practices like wearing a mask, following social distancing, and the importance of Vaccination. With this intention we have launched two awards:

5. “Mask Up With Care” Media Recognition Award: I’d like to encourage all media representatives across Africa, Asia and Latin America to apply for “Mask up with care” Media Recognition Award. This media recognition award will encourage media to sensitize our communities. Raising awareness about coronavirus in our communities will also contribute to supporting health workers who are at the forefront of COVID-19 response – providing high quality, respectful treatment, and care.

6. The “Make Your Own Mask” Fashion Awards invites African Fashion Designers and students to create and share designs of masks and other clothing items that carry messages to encourage people to wear masks to show they care and at the same time make it creative and fun. This is our way of encouraging people to wear masks during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Be creative vibrant and create new ideas and masks to encourage people to wear those masks and protect themselves and others in style. I personally ally, and have more than 50 different masks to match my outfits, so I do not get boredom’s have sone fun.

 Having experimented with virtual events this year, is there hope that when COVID subsides, the 9th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary will be in person?

Senator Dr Kelej: I hope so. However, I feel the 9th edition will still be online, the 10th edition hopefully will be in person although I might apply hybrid method. Online and in person to benefit more and more participants since now we have a great platform, and it will be very difficult to fit all of them on one place specially post Covid.

8.Dr Kelej is now Senator Kelej, what does the new job add to your leadership of the Merck Foundation and how are you able to balance your work and personal life?

I was appointed by The President of The Arab Republic of Egypt in October 2020 as a Senator at The Egyptian Senate. I am currently a member of the Egyptian Senate (2020 – 2025) and serving an important role to advise with regards to African Health, Economic and Social Sustainable Development and collaboration opportunities. Because of the nature of the senate appointment and the rye of experience required, it will add more value if most of my time is spent as the CEO of Merck Foundation and running the programs in Africa. This will create better opportunity to explore new collaboration opportunities to realize better development objectives across Africa which Egypt is part of.

I believe in this concept of Work-Life fusion. I have fused my work life with my personal life to achieve balance. This is very easy to achieve; when you have passion for your work and when you work in healthy environment like Merck Foundation.

Senator Kelej and the Merck Foundation also engage artists to send across poignant messages

 Going forward, how do you envisage the future of the partnership between Merck Foundation and Africa?

Senator Dr Kelej: We envision working closely with our partners that are African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building and transforming healthcare capacity, and addressing health, social & economic challenges in our beautiful continent. We will together make history and transform public Healthcare sector like never happened before.  We will be building a strong army of 1000’s of well-trained specialized doctors who will save millions of lives every month.

This is my commitment as long as I live, and this is our Merck Foundation vision.

We will be part of Africa’s history; this is our legacy.

*Courtesy of May Issue of PAV Magazine

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Kenya:Obiri to seek fourth title in Doha
May 5, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Two-time World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri is set to represent Kenya in the Doha 2021 Diamond League slated for May 28, 2021.

She will be seeking her fourth title in the 3,000m race in Doha but will face stiff competition from the 5,000m World record holder Letesenbet Gidey from Ethiopia.

Obiri has made four appearances in Doha, winning three times and losing once. Her first title came in 2014 during her debut when he set a record time of 8:20:68.

In 2018, she finished fourth; however, she recorded a back-to-back victory in 2019 and 2019 in 8:25:60 and 8:22:54, respectively.

Out of 14 meetings between Obiri and Gidey, the former has won nine times and the latter five times.

In their last meeting during Monaco Diamond League, Obiri finished ahead of her Ethiopian counterpart, who finished second.

Gidey has defeated Obiri two times in Doha, which is in 2018, and in the 2019 World Championships in the 10,000m winning silver and the Kenyan finished fifth.

Obiri is fresh from participating in the Istanbul Half Marathon held last month. She finished third in 1:04:51.

“It feels great to be heading back to Doha for the fifth time and at a place where I retained my world title in 2019… I hope to be successful once more as I prepare for Tokyo Olympic Games,” she noted.

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Ivory Coast First Lady Ropes in Artists in Fight against Child Labour
May 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Prince Kurupati

Remarks by The First Lady Dominique Ouattara at Opening of the fifth edition of the WARA TOUR caravan: no to child labor in cocoa cultivation.

Ivory Coast First Lady Dominique Ouattara is intensifying her fight against child labour in the country. Recently, the First Lady roped in various artists in the country to help her amplify the message on the fight against child labour in all corners of the country. The First Lady took the occasion of the launch of the 5th edition of the Wara Tour to welcome all artists that will help in propagating the message on the fight against child labour.

Speaking at the launch of the 5th edition of the Wara Tour where she assumed the role of ‘godmother’ of the tour, Dominique Ouattara first took time in thanking all the artists who graced the occasion and accepted the call to become ambassadors on the fight against child labour. “I cannot quote you all because, to my great joy, you are very numerous at this ceremony. But know that I have for each of you a great affection and I thank you for your presence,” she said.

In her address, the First Lady of Ivory Coast said that for a long time, she has worked hard for the well-being of vulnerable women and children. She said that her work with Children of Africa Foundation starting all the way back in 1998 is a testament of her determination to raise the well-being of all the vulnerable groups in society. As such, the call to become the godmother of the 5th edition of the Wara Tour Caravan is something she did not think about twice as it aligns with her vision to free the country from all instances of child labour. She went on to state that her ascension to become the godmother of the Tour could not have come at a better time as the theme of the 5th edition  – NO TO CHILD LABOUR IN COCA FARMING – resonates with her “personal commitment against child labour”.

The First Lady said that her involvement with organizations fighting child labour including with the National Monitoring Committee has managed to bear some success with regards to uplifting the lives of women and children. However, some of their efforts have been derailed by external parameters which include illegal immigration, the fight against poverty and the income of the planters. It is these external parameters that the First Lady is looking to address and curtail as a way of paving the way for the total elimination of all forms of child labour.

Dominique Ouattara acknowledged that the fight against child labour is something that cannot be done by one man or one organization but it’s something that needs collective support from everyone if the desired end game is to be achieved. “Child labour in general is a problem that concerns us all and against which we can act, each at his level,” she said.

In her concluding remarks, the First Lady praised and thanked the founder of the Wara Tour citizens initiative Abou Nidal stating, “I would like to thank you for your commitment to our children through your various awareness caravans. This year, you have decided to say no to child labour in coca farming. I would like to congratulate you and all the artists who accompanied you for this citizens’ initiative that honours your corporation.”

To ensure that the Wara Tour Caravan records success in achieving its objective in the fight against child labour in cocoa farming, the First Lady said she is “contributing 10 million CFA francs to help you (WARA TOUR Caravan) travel within the country.” She also offered a sum of “15 million CFA to all artists who came to participate in the training seminar on child labour.”

To all the artists who signed up to help in the fight against child labour, the First Lady’s parting message encouraged them to keep working for the betterment and upliftment of the communities, “You have the gift to make us dream, to transport us and to make us feel the most vivid emotions. You also have the power to educate us and awaken our consciousness through your art. Do not hesitate to take up this fight through your respective artistic works, in order to preserve our children against these harmful practices.”

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Merck foundation partner with Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) to build fertility care capacity and advocacy in Africa
May 4, 2021 | 1 Comments

Merck Foundation announced this partnership during their 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary during the Fertility and Reproductive care session
Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation & President of Merck More Than a Mother with Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society & President of the Nigerian Academy of Medicine Specialties

Merck Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA, announced their partnership with Africa Reproductive Care society (ARCS) based in Lagos, Nigeria to build fertility and reproductive tube care capacity, build advocacy to break the stigma of infertility, and raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility in Africa as part of Merck Foundation More than a Mother campaign.

Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “We are very happy to partner with an important and inclusive Society like Africa Reproductive Care Society with the aim not to only provide scientific and clinics training to African Doctors and Embryologists but to also build advocacy to break the stigma of infertility and raise awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. We at Merck Foundation partnered with 20 African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education, Communication and Genders, Academia, Media & Art communities to achieve our goals to transform the landscape of fertility care in Africa, and we have achieved very important milestones. I believe with our new partnership with ARCS we will continue our efforts and address different aspects of this topic”.

Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) emphasized, “I am very happy to partner with Merck Foundation. Merck Foundation has been creating awareness and building fertility care capacity in Africa. It is very critical to create awareness around infertility prevention and management as around 85% of infertility cases in Africa are caused by untreated infectious diseases, hence are preventable in many cases. I also thank Merck Foundation CEO, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej for her energy, inspiration, and innovations. Together will do well for Africa”.

“I invite all fertility care experts & embryologists, media experts, fashion designers who are our Merck Foundation Alumni to join this society. Also, I invite policymakers, community leaders and members, singers and filmmakers to apply for the membership which is free and inclusive for all Africa”, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej added.

Merck Foundation announced this partnership during their 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary on 29th April 2021 during the Fertility and Reproductive care session, where they provided scientific and medical training for more than 400 doctors from Africa and Asia. And, discussed challenges, strategies, and solutions to improve access to quality, equitable and regulated fertility care in Africa and Asia.

This partnership is part of the Merck Foundation More than a Mother initiative.

About ‘Merck Foundation More Than a Mother’ campaign:
“Merck  Foundation More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe, effective and equitable fertility care solutions. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

With “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility at all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child. 

The Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” are:

H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of BotswanaH.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The GambiaH.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia
H.E. SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina FasoH.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of GhanaH.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria
H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE,

The First Lady of Burundi
H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea ConakryH.E FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone
H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African RepublicH.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of LiberiaH.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia
H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo BrazzavilleH.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of MalawiH.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe
H.E. DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, THE First Lady of Democratic Republic of CongoH.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique
The Former First Lady of Republic of Burundi, H.E Madam DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The Former First Lady of Chad, H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The Former First Lady of Republic of Malawi, H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA and The Former First Lady of Niger, H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU have worked successfully with Merck Foundation as Merck Foundation More Than a Mother Ambassadors to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women in their countries.

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck Foundation More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN, such as;

  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Africa Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards
  • ‘Merck Foundation More than a Mother’ Film Awards
  • Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
  • Children storybook, localized for each country

About Africa Reproductive  Care Society ( ARCS):
ARCS aims to be the foremost contributor and the partner of choice in advancing the ART care solutions and advocating for improving access to regulated and equitable fertility care solutions and breaking the stigma around infertility in Africa with special focus on Sub- Saharan Africa.

ARCS will work closely with its members and partners to further its aim and objectives through supporting and facilitating programs of education, training, communication of knowledge, exchange of experience, and networking.

Membership is open to individuals from several interest groups who are engaged in practicing, developing and building capacity of the Reproductive Health care, science, ethics and management. It is also open for individuals who are involved in advocacy building and raising awareness with the aim to break the stigma of infertility, empowering infertile women and improve access to equitable, safe and effective fertility care solutions in Africa.

Members include; Medical doctors, Embryologists, Scientists, Psychologists, Social workers, Fertility Nurses and Counselors, Fertility advocates, and Health Media Representatives as well as affiliated nonprofit stakeholders who are involved in ART field.

ARCS Membership application is subject to the ARCS  Executive Board approval and is free of charge.

ARCS will not raise or receive funds from any organization or individuals.

Members will be able to apply for training programs that will be subject to ARSC Scientific and Educational committee screening and proceeding with affiliated training institutions with the purpose of recommendation.

*SOURCE Merck Foundation

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Zambia First Lady and Merck Foundation CEO, Senator, Rasha Kelej co-chair Merck Foundation Conference 2021
May 4, 2021 | 0 Comments

  • Merck Foundation annual conference was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.
  • African First Ladies of Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Namibia were the Guests of Honour for the Luminary.
  • Till today about 100,000 participants, healthcare providers, policymakers, and academia from 70 countries have attended the Luminary.

Lusaka, Zambia: Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA conducted their 8th Edition of “Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary” from 27th  – 29th April 2021, through an online videoconference. The conference was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both of Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees; and co-chaired by H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of the Republic of Zambia and Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, Merck Foundation CEO & Co-chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary emphasized, “We have always believed in the importance of building healthcare capacity through providing training to healthcare providers in many medical specialties. Also, as a response to COVID 19 pandemic, we adopted the online medical education strategy to be able to continue with our efforts of healthcare capacity building. I am very proud that we have so far provided for more than 1100 Doctors from 42 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America with one & two-, three-year specialty training in multiple fields such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Human Assisted Reproduction and Embryology & Fertility specialty, to be the first in their countries. Moreover, we have now widened our horizons by introducing more scholarships for young doctors in many new underserved specialties across Africa and Asia.”

H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia and Co-chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2021 emphasized, “We are proud of our partnership with Merck Foundation, which started in 2019. In a very short period, we have been able to reshape the healthcare landscape of Zambia by enrolling and providing training to more than 90 young doctors with specialty training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory, Acute medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Fertility and Embryology. All of these fields are very critical and were lacking in our country. This will contribute to our battle against coronavirus and other diseases”.  

During his inauguration speech, The President of Zambia, H.E Dr. EDGAR CHAGWA LUNGU emphasized “I am very glad to be hosting this important conference together with Merck Foundation, our long-term strategic partner. It is a great honor to inaugurate the conference alongside the First Ladies of Africa. I am certain that this conference will help us to further explore partnership opportunities and introduce new frameworks for cooperation in the area of health care capacity building and to define interventions to break infertility stigma and support girl education”.

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of both of Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees expressed “Together, we continue to work in order to realize Merck Foundation’s vision: ‘Everyone in the world should lead a happy and fulfilling life’. We have achieved together, a huge success and we are going to continue and extend our support to achieve more”.

The 8th Edition of the Luminary marked another important milestone: the 4th Anniversary of Merck Foundation.

As part of the Luminary, Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Committee (MFFLI) High-Level Panel was conducted, which was attended by the 13 African First Ladies, who are the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother.

The keynote address was delivered by H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of the Republic of Zambia as the host and co-chairperson of the conference along with

  • H.E. Mrs. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady of the Republic of Angola
  • H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of the Republic of Botswana
  • H.E. Madam SIKA KABORE, The First Lady of Burkina Faso
  • H.E. Madam ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of the Republic of Burundi
  • H.E. Madam BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic
  • H.E. Madam DENISE NYAKERU TSHISEKEDI, The First Lady of the Democratic Republic of The Congo
  • H.E. Mrs. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of the Republic of Ghana
  • H.E. Madam DJÈNÈ CONDÉ, The First Lady of the Republic of Guinea Conakry
  • H.E. Mrs. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of the Republic of Liberia
  • H.E. Mrs. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of the Republic of Malawi
  • H.E. Mrs. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of the Republic of Mozambique
  • H.E. Mrs. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of the Republic of Namibia

The Day 1 of the 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary was attended by close to 100,000 participants, Healthcare providers, policymakers, academia, researchers, and media from more than 70 Countries in four languages English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

On Day 2 of the conference, MARS- Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit was held where a High-Level Panel Discussion with Ministers of Health, Science and Technology, Education, Information And Gender and MARS Researchers was held with the objective to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and empower them in STEM.

On the third day, Merck Foundation Health Media Training was organized for the African and Latin American Media fraternity to emphasize the important role that media plays to break the stigma around infertility, in raising awareness about infertility prevention, and empowering girls and women through education.

Other important scientific sessions in different medical fields were also held in parallel on Day 2 and Day 3 of the Luminary.

Countries participating include Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central Africa Republic, Cambodia, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea – Bissau, Guinea – Conakry, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, The Gambia, Togo, Tunisia, U.A.E, UK, Uganda, US, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe and more.

Link to the Facebook live steam of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary Inauguration & Africa’s First Ladies High Level Panel – MFFLI 2021:

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“I wanted to be able to act and fit in on any set, anywhere in the world…” -Erica Nlewedim
May 1, 2021 | 0 Comments
Erica at Ealing studios

Former MetFilm School acting student, Erica Nlewedim is a household name in Nigeria; at only 27 she found extraordinary fame last year after her performance on a Nigerian reality TV show, Big Brother Naija (formerly Big Brother Nigeria).

Erica now has over 1.6M followers on Instagram, over half a million followers on Twitter, over 1M views on TikTok and a massive fanbase called Elites – she’s a brand ambassador for the likes of Swarovski jewellery, and, she has a handful of fearture films to her name… she is a very busy woman.

Originally a Business graduate of Nigeria’s Covenant University, Erica enrolled at London’s MetFilm School in 2019 to study acting. She said: “I had already been working as an actor for four years before I started at MetFilm School.

“I knew that I needed to grow as an actor, I wanted to improve and I wanted to be able to act and fit in on any set, anywhere in the world, not just limit myself to Nigeria. So, I knew that the UK was the place to learn. And I wanted to go to a school where everyone speaks English.

“I chose MetFilm School London without even visiting the campus. I had spent time ‘Googling’ film schools and acting courses and I really liked the look of MetFilm School.  So, I called them and had a really good phone call with them, they answered my questions, and gave me all of the details – it was a welcoming and friendly experience and that’s when I made my decision to enrol.

“I had never visited the UK before, I’d visited other European countries like France, Spain and Germany several times, but not the UK, not until I started studying there.

“I enjoyed living and studying in London, I knew quite a few people from home who are studying and working there, so I had a network of familiar faces from the start.

“And I soon made new friends. I’m still in contact with people I met while studying there, I learnt a lot, and I know that I’m a better actor because of my experience there.

“I think learning about and being able to apply the Stanislavski Technique to my work has been really important. It helps me get into the mindset of the character – rather than just ‘acting’ the emotions, this technique has helped me understand the character, consider the character’s mindset and to ‘feel’ their emotions and draw on those for a more authentic performance.

“London is great, it’s expensive and the weather is sometimes horrible –  it was when I was there I’m sure it was the coldest summer ever except for a few warm days! I had done a lot of research, so I knew what to expect. Everyone was friendly, and it felt like home very quickly.”

Erica travelled every day to the School based at the world-famous Ealing Studios from Colindale, west London by London bus, she said: “I had the real London experience!”

Erica didn’t waste any time when she got back to Nigeria and started work immediately: “As soon as I had finished the courses, I was back home and working. I had plans to travel back to the UK, but then Covid hit and nothing much was happening. I was stuck at home and that’s when I decided to apply to be a housemate for Big Brother.

“I knew it would be safe, we would be tested and in lockdown together, so I decided to give a go and I was chosen! That’s when my career really skyrocketed. I’ve been so busy.

“Last December I worked on a project with Netflix, it’s a ‘Netflix Original Series’, I don’t know when it’s out and I can’t say any more about it. I’ve also shot two other movies this year and I’ve been working as a brand ambassador.”

Erica, also known as ‘Star Girl’ is brand ambassador for Nigerian brands including Kuku’s Hair, Star Radler and Legend Beers, Kuda Bank, Partner Mobile and global brand, Swarovski jewellery. 

But she is not resting on her laurels; she is ambitious for her future: “I want to be the biggest star to have come out of Nigeria, I want to be known across Africa, South Africa, Europe and the UK.”

“My advice for anyone thinking about working in the screen industries is to work on improving yourself. Whether that’s through education or research; and learn to be your best self every day.

“Build a positive mindset and tell yourself positive things daily – be your own self’s best friend and work on your confidence. You have to be confident in yourself because it will make you a better actor.”

Erica stars in Nollywood feature film, Devil in Agbada due to be released later this year.

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13 African First Ladies present during the inauguration of the Merck Foundation 2021 conference
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Thirteen First African Ladies graced the inauguration of the8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference as guests of honors.

They included Angola First Lady, H.E. Ana Dias Lourenço, Botswana First Lady, H.E. Neo Jane Masisi, Burkina Faso First Lady, H.E. Sika Kabore, Burundi First Lady, H.E. Angeline Ndayishimiye, Central African Republic First Lady, H.E. Brigitte Touadera, Democratic Republic of Congo First Lady, H.E. Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi.

Others are Ghana First Lady, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Guinea First Lady, H.E. Djènè Condé, Liberia First Lady, H.E. Clar Marie Weah, Malawi First Lady, H.E. Monica Chakwera, Mozambique First Lady, H.E. Isaura Ferrão Nyusi, Namibia First Lady, H.E. Monica Geingos and Zambia First Lady H.E. Esther Lungu.

They shared health capacity-building strategy and building a robust platform of specialized trained medical experts in their respective countries, infertility stigma and support girl’s education.

They expressed their gratitude to Merck Foundation saying their partnership with the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany has supported them in building healthcare capacity and train healthcare providers in their respective countries. Some of the successes highlighted include:

More than 37 local young Namibian doctors will be provided with one-year online diploma from South Wales University, in the fields of Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines, Acute Medicines and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, reiterated H.E. Monica Geingos, the First Lady of Namibia.

Mozambique has enrolled 14 doctors in the Diabetes Master Course through Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Project.

Malawi has launched the winners of Merck More Than a Mother Media Recognition Awards to avert the stigma of infertility and become the voice of the voiceless and break the silence. They are also set to launch Film, Song Awards to inspire youth to be innovative.

In Ghana, more than 60 healthcare providers have been trained in fields like Cancer, Diabetes, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory, acute medicines, sexual and reproductive medicines, Fertility and embryology.

32 Doctors have also been enrolled for the Master Course in Diabetes Management in French accredited by Diabetes UK in DRC.

“Till today we have 33 doctors who have benefited from scholarships that Merck Foundation is providing in Oncology, Fertility speciality, embryology and reproductive and sexual medicines and Diabetes management,” said  Burundi First Lady, H.E. Angeline Ndayishimiye.

Thirteen doctors have also been trained in oncology and diabetes in Central African Republic.

The first ladies noted challenges women and girls are undergoing in Africa such as physical and psychological violence, stigma of infertility, child marriage, etc.

“UN reported that nearly one in five women worldwide has experienced violence in the past year. It means that infertile and childless women are suffering even more and more physical and psychological violence and are now trapped at home with their abusers, struggling to access services, they are lonely suffering in silence,” said Namibia First Lady, H.E. Monica Geingos

They committed to empower infertile women through access to education, information, health, change of mindset, and economic support.

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Merck Foundation annual conference kicks off virtually
April 27, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

The 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference officially began today on a virtual platform.

The three-day conference was inaugurated by Zambian President H.E. Mr. Edgar Lungu and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg, the chairman of both the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.

It was co-chaired by the First Lady of Zambia, H.E. Esther Lungu, and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Mark Foundation.

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the 8th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, 2021 in partnership with Government of Zambia and co-chaired by my wife the First Lady of Zambia – H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU. Moreover, we are also happy to celebrate together the 4th Anniversary of Merck Foundation – our long term partner,” said H.E. Edgar Lungu.

The medical and social educational conference aims to improve access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions & build healthcare capacity in the fields of Diabetes, Fertility, Oncology, women’s health, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicine. The foundation will also be celebrating its 4th anniversary.

The conference brings together more than  32,000  participants such as healthcare providers, policymakers, academia, researchers, and Health media from more than 70 countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Other attendees are 17 First Ladies of Africa and African Ministers from different sectors.

In his inauguration speech, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg called on ministers and health experts from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the rest of the world to join hands to realize Merck Foundation’s visions stating that everyone in the world deserves to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg further disclosed that through Merck more than a Mother campaign in 35 countries, they have provided 180 doctors with Fertility specialists and embryology training programs and another 155 doctors with a one-year diploma and two-year master degree in sexual and reproductive health from the U.K. university which will improve women health in general and reproductive health in particular.

He added that the foundation would this year start issuing more scholarships in more specialties such as internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health: Orthopedic Trauma, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology, and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics.

On her side, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej said they could not conduct the annual conference physically in Zambia as planned due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.

She noted that More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship in the fields of Diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, Cancer, Research, Fertility Care, Women Health, Sexual & Reproductive care, Respiratory Medicines, and Acute Medicines, and more to join in the future to benefit from other specialties.

“Merck Foundation started this smart capacity building strategy in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health and Medical Societies since 2012, which contributed significantly towards transforming and reshaping the landscape of the public healthcare sector and towards advancing patient care in 42 countries. It is history in the making,” said Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej.

“Together we will discuss our strategy realization to build healthcare capacity, respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in many important and critical specialties in their countries in collaboration with their Offices and Ministries of Health,” she added.

During the conference, sacrifices and efforts of everyday heroes and medical workers during the Cov-19 would be acknowledged, said Dr. Kelej.

She further thanked all their partners for their valuable participation and support that have brought progress to the foundation.

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Rwanda:Rural women farmers get smartphones to improve agriculture-related information sharing
March 31, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Minister for agriculture Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana hands a smart phone to one of rural women during the event on Tuesday.
Minister for agriculture Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana hands a smart phone to one of rural women during the event on Tuesday.

Rural women leading farmers’ cooperatives in four districts on Tuesday received smartphones to help them access agriculture-related information and share them with farmers.

Under the initiative dubbed “ConnectRwanda” the Ministry of ICT and Innovation started the smartphone distribution to the majority of Rwandans in 2019.

 A total of 3,000 rural women received the smartphones in four districts namely Nyamagabe in Southern province, Kirehe in Eastern Province and Nyamasheke in Western Province.

According to officials, the initiative seeks to connect the unconnected households to bridge the existing digital gaps.

Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation reiterated that agriculture being the backbone of Rwanda’s economy, women are great contributors to the growth of this sector.

 “Access to finance and smartphones is very critical for development, especially in such times where digital divides have been exacerbated. As we conclude the women’s celebration month, we are thrilled to support women in agribusiness with Made in Rwanda Smartphones,” said minister Ingabire.

“In order to reach more development, women in agriculture should be placed at the centre of this transformation,” she added.

She noted that women constitute more than 60 per cent of the Rwandan agricultural workforce. 

Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said that cooperative members would be able to access and share information easily hence improve their agricultural activities.

Under the ConnectRwanda initiative, private companies, government institutions and individuals work together to ensure that all Rwandans are connected.

Currently, Rwanda has a plant manufacturing smartphones under “Mara Phone” brand name.

Thousands of Rwandans have so far benefited from the initiative to acquire smartphones to boost digital drive in the country.  

Women who received the smartphones have welcomed the initiative saying that as women cooperative leaders, they will be able to communicate with other women in the agriculture domain through timely and adequate information sharing.  

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Nigeria Native Named Blue Jacket of the Quarter Aboard USS Iwo Jima
March 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Stephanie Fox*

ATLANTIC OCEAN – Seaman Beauty McGowan, a native of  Lagos, Nigeria, was recently named Blue Jacket of the Quarter aboard USS Iwo Jima. 

The Blue Jacket of the Quarter award is one of several quarterly categories used to recognize high-performing sailors who stand out from others in similar pay grades.
Seaman Beauty McGowan is a 2009 Lagos State Model College Kankon graduate and a 2015 Ladoke Akintola University of Technology graduate. Today, McGowan serves as a culinary specialist.

“As a culinary specialist, we feed the crew,” said McGowan. “I see it as a way of meeting people’s satisfaction and relieving them of hunger-driven stress.”

McGowan joined the Navy six months ago for the opportunities the military offers.

“I joined the Navy because I wanted a better life,” said McGowan. “I wanted financial viability and to be able to go to medical school.”

According to McGowan, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Lagos.

“Growing up, I learned the importance of determination, endurance and perseverance,” McGowan said. “Those skills are currently helping me in the fleet.”

Iwo Jima is the seventh Wasp-class amphibious assault ship and the second ship in the U.S. Navy to bear that name. The ship was named for the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II.

According to Navy officials, amphibious assault ships are designed to deliver U.S. Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts. Designed to be versatile, the ship has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations.

With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, four priorities will focus efforts on sailors, readiness, capabilities and capacity.

“For 245 years, in both calm and rough waters, our Navy has stood the watch to protect the homeland, preserve freedom of the seas, and defend our way of life,” said Gilday. “The decisions and investments we make this decade will set the maritime balance of power for the rest of this century. We can accept nothing less than success.”

Though there are many opportunities for sailors to earn recognition in their command, community and careers, McGowan is most proud of contributing to the team.

“The accomplishment I am most proud of is earning Blue Jacket of the Quarter,” said McGowan.

“Our sailors remain the true source of our naval power,” said Gilday. “Mission one for every sailor remains a ready Navy, a Navy ready to compete today and a Navy ready to compete tomorrow. Together we will deliver the naval power the nation needs.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy, McGowan, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a tradition providing the Navy the nation needs.

“To me, serving in the Navy gives me pride and a sense of belonging,” added McGowan.

*Navy Office of Community Outreach

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Women-led Kenyan design house wins Fashionomics Africa sustainable design competition for turning fruit waste into eco-friendly footwear
March 29, 2021 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank’s Fashionomics Africa initiative has named a women-led Kenya shoe design house as the winner of its competition to support producers of sustainable fashion.

Pine Kazi, which converts pineapple leaf and recycled rubber into fashionable footwear, won the $2,000 Fashionomics Africa competition cash prize. In addition, the business will have the opportunity to showcase its creation in online events, share insights on key sustainability challenges facing the industry and receive a certificate.

The brand, co-founded by Olivia Okinyi, Angela Musyoka and Mike Langa, will also have access to media opportunities and receive mentoring and networking opportunities from competition collaborators.

“Pine Kazi is greatly humbled to be the winners of the first Fashionomics Africa contest in Africa. This is indeed an honour to the Kenyan people and the African continent at large,” said Okinyi.

Musyoka added: “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage and the patience to pursue them.”

Competition judges said Pine Kazi’s shoes are innovative and sustainable. The upper of the shoe is made from pineapple textile, while the inside is lined with organic cotton. The sole is made from sisal plant fiber, fitted with recycled tyre underneath.

The Fashionomics Africa contest honours African fashion brands working to change how fashion is produced, bought, used and recycled, to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour. A panel of four judges representing the Bank and competition collaborators – the United Nations Environment Program, the Parsons School of Design and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – reviewed 110 entries from 24 African countries and selected three finalists: Pine Kazi; CiiE Luxuries, an eco-friendly accessories business based in Abuja, Nigeria; and clothing brand Labake Lagos.

“We were pleasantly surprised by all the applications received for the first edition of our Fashionomics Africa competition. It was very difficult to make a choice, but the finalists stood out with their innovative, durable and contemporary designs,” said Emanuela Gregorio, coordinator of the Fashionomics Africa initiative at the African Development Bank.

Of the applications, 65% were submitted by women and the businesses were predominantly micro-enterprises (54%), solo entrepreneurs (35%) and small businesses (12%).

“What we learned from this Fashionomics Africa contest, in this month celebrating women around the world, is that many women entrepreneurs are advocating for sustainable production and consumption, and we commend their efforts,” said Amel Hamza, Division Manager at the Bank’s Gender, Women and Civil Society Department.

An online public vote by 986 participants determined the winner: Pine Kazi got 400 votes, 318 votes went to CiiE Luxuries, and 268 to Labake Lagos.

Competition judge and a Program Director at New York-based Parsons School of Design, Brendan McCarthy, congratulated Pine Kazi during the competition winners’ announcement last Friday: “You transformed waste materials from pineapples into profound new textiles and absolutely beautiful new shoes,” he said.

The shoes are 100% handmade to reduce carbon footprint and can last three years, Pine Kazi says.

Okinyi wrote in Pine Kazi’s competition entry that if they won, they would invest half the winnings in machinery used to make shoe source materials. “[This machinery] will see pineapple leaf waste put to work and create more green jobs for unemployed youth,” she added.

The design house said resources would also be divided equally between research and development of natural dyes, the acquisition of professional stylists and the establishment of a centralized production system.

To learn more about the Fashionomics Africa online competition, click here.

Fashionomics Africa is an initiative of the African Development Bank to increase Africa’s participation in the global textile and fashion industry value chains – with an emphasis on women and youth.

*AfDB

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Somalia: A Sustained Fight for Human Rights paying off for Mama Zahra
March 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Mama Zahra has beaten all odds to continue supporting the voiceless and the vulnerable
Mama Zahra has beaten all odds to give voice to the voiceless and the vulnerable in Somalia.Photo credit Twitter.

The task may be daunting but the crusade for better human rights in Somalia is one that Zahra Mohamed Ahmad better known as Mama Zahra has embraced whole heartedly. Under the canopy of the Somali Women Development Centre that she leads, Mama Zahra has worked tirelessly to empower women, counsel rape, war and victims of gender violence, provide free legal counselling, working on reconciliation and peacebuilding amongst many other human rights related initiatives.

Her efforts got a big boost recently when she was one of three Africans selected as recipients of the U.S State Department International Women of Courage Award. Assisted by an interpreter in an interview with Samuel Ouma for PAV, Mama Zahra says the award will serve as an encouragement to women in Somalia to keep making a positive change in society.

May we start with a reaction from you on the recent Women of Courage Award you received, how did you receive news about this? How did Somalis feel about it, and what does this mean for the work you do?

Mama Zahra: First, I would like to express my gratitude to the Almighty God for enabling me to bag this precious award because it means a lot to me and my people, especially women and girls. The information about the award came directly from the US Department of State Department and was received with joy by Somalis. I am sure it will encourage women, particularly those doing social works, to make positive changes in society.

Talking about the work you do; can you tell us a little more about the Somali Women Development Centre-SWDC ?

Mama Zahra: SWDC is a non-governmental and non-profit organization established in 2000 to empower women and other vulnerable groups such as IDPs, victims of rape, war, gender-based violence, and any calamity, be it natural or human, through access to knowledge and economic and social independence. We also focus on the human rights protection of the vulnerable groups by providing free legal aid services, enhancing reconciliation and peacebuilding, lobbying with the involved parties, and building capacity.

What is the situation like for women and girls in particular and human rights in general in Somalia?

Mama Zahra: The situation is not encouraging at all. Unlike other countries such as Syria and Kenya, refugees in Somalia who are mainly women and children live in unfavorable conditions. Overcrowding and lack of social amenities are heart-breaking. Parents are being forced to live in small tents together with their children.

May we know some of the successes you have registered, what changes have taken place in Somalia as a result of your work with the SWDC?

Mama Zahra: I am proud of the accomplishments we have achieved since 2000. First, the People of Minnesota and I had formed Somcare to oversee the treatment of 250 seriously injured in the war. Through the partnership, these people were successfully treated in Kenya’s Kijabe hospital.  Second, we have trained several women on legal matters, and they have been of great help whenever help is needed. Besides, we have trained female security guards in prison on how to handle female inmates.  We have also offered support to people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans, blind children, and university students from a poor backgrounds. By agitating for an increase in women’s representation, the quota has increased from 11/12 percent to 24 percent. Somali women are highly represented in Parliament, making it one of the highest in the continent.  Out of 275 lawmakers, over 80 are women.

In terms of challenges, may you know some of the most acute challenges you have faced?

Mama Zahra: There have been both personal and organizational challenges. As an organization, we were hard hit in 2013 after two male barristers who were mandated to train women lawyers were killed in a terrorist attack in a regional court in Mogadishu. It was a sad experience, but we had to move on. Later, I was expelled from a regional state of election for standing for what is right before losing my son under mysterious circumstances. My son, the founder of the first laundry shop in the Somali capital, was shot dead in the street. He also owned a start-up kind of organization that offered support to the young. I believe he was killed because he was innovative.

How is your relationship with the government in Somalia, how are your activities and those of the SWDC perceived, and what are they doing or not doing to improve on the situation of girls and women?

Mama Zahra: I work with many ministries in Somalia to achieve our objectives, and Somalis have embraced our activities beyond any doubt. We are doing a lot to improve the situation of women and girls. For instance, we have partnered with the government to offer free primary and secondary education; we own medical facilities where they receive treatment and provide finances to vulnerable individuals to help them settle down and feed their families.

Mama Zahra was among the women recognized worldwide by the U.S State Department  for demonstrating bravery and leadership in advocating for human rights, peace, gender equality, women empowerment, and justice
Mama Zahra was among the women recognized worldwide by the U.S State Department for demonstrating bravery and leadership in advocating for human rights, peace, gender equality, women empowerment, and justice.Photo courtesy

In terms of policy proposals, what suggestions or recommendations do you have that could help improve gender and human rights in the country?

Mama Zahra: People should pay attention to both local and international laws on human rights to better women’s lives.

With all the work you have done and the growing international, is the thought of political leadership something you have thought of or something you may consider if Somalis call on you?

Mama Zahra: I have no political ambition, but I support women’s leadership; women should be represented at all levels of positions.

Any message to international partners out there on what and how there could support the work you have been doing on the ground in Somalia?

Mama Zahra: So far, we operate in two regions, but with well-wishers and partners, we can move to other regions to impact more lives.  I plead with them to rally behind us to help us realize our goals.

What next for Mama Zahra after the Women in Courage award? What changes or developments should we expect from you and the SWDC?

Mama Zahra: I was awarded for what I did, but now through international help, I would love to improve the living standards of the IDPs, install DNA facilities that are only found in South Africa in the continent, and advocate for a high-quality healthcare system.

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AfDB:On International Women’s Day, Acting VP Gichuri reflects on Africa’s gender wins
March 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

To mark International Women’s Day, development leader Wambui Gichuri shares her thoughts on how far Africa has come on gender equity. She also reveals personal life lessons that have inspired her. Gichuri is Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, as well as Director for Water Development and Sanitation, at the African Development Bank.

1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s remarkable achievements and an opportunity to review the obstacles that stand in the way of women realizing our full potential.

More personally, I believe that what we tell our children – whether girls or boys – is really important. Growing up, I heard and saw many biases against women and girls – which unfortunately still persist. But my mum, who raised me and my two sisters as a single parent, told us that we could succeed beyond our wildest dreams if we focused on school, worked hard and passed our exams. She told us that education is the key that can open any door. This stuck with my sisters, and with me. On International Women’s Day, I honour all that my mother did to prepare us to achieve.

2. What progress in gender empowerment and equality have you seen in your career, and what challenges remain?

There are more women in school and more women with degrees. There are more women in boardrooms and in government. An African woman – Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – is now heading the World Trade Organization. She is the first African and first woman to hold this office. However, we still need more women sitting where decisions are made. 

We need to be safe in our workplaces, out in public, and in our homes. We need more access to finance to start and scale up businesses. Organizations need to take action to close gender wage gaps. We need to invest in infrastructure services such as water, sanitation and hygiene to ease the burden among the millions of unserved people in Africa who suffer poor health as a result of inadequate or unavailable services or spend valuable productive time collecting water. It is a well-known fact that, in most cases, women and girls bear the brunt of these shortcomings.

What’s more, COVID-19 will undermine many of the gains of the past decade, for example, by making it more difficult for many girls to return to school.

3. How does your work at the Bank advance opportunities for women across the continent?

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to the Bank’s strategies and programs. In 2020, the Bank’s Board approved the People Strategy, which commits to actions and targets that move us closer to gender parity among staff. The Bank also approved a new Gender Strategy and Action Plan which aims to empower women in a number of areas, including access to finance and markets.

The Bank also invests in strategic initiatives such as the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa program (AFAWA) which aims to reduce the estimated $42 billion financing gap for women-owned and run SMEs. AFAWA has two parallel channels: the first is strategic use of the Bank’s financial instruments such as lines of credit, trade finance, and equity funds – expected to unlock $2 billion. The second channel is an innovative guarantee mechanism expected to de-risk women’s SMEs and incentivize financial institutions to lend to women entrepreneurs. The guarantee mechanism, called the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth, is expected to unlock $3 billion. AFAWA’s implementation started in January 2021 and the program held a special Women’s Day virtual event, where it introduced some of the first beneficiaries.

4. What words of advice would you give to young women starting out in their working lives?

Find good mentors to guide you – and be a mentor to others, because this is a good way to develop leadership skills. Networking is an important source of new ideas, knowledge, and possible job opportunities. Read books – they will help you expand your horizons, strengthen analytical and writing skills, inform your conversations, listening skills, and more!

Learn digital skills to adapt to virtual work environments and to be equipped for the future of work.

Most importantly: I encourage young women to work hard, dream big, be clear about your career goals and follow them with tenacity, passion, and energy.

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The Africa Digital Inclusion Facility approves grants worth $1.3 million for two research efforts to enhance women’s digital access to loans and micro-insurance
March 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank has approved two grants for research that will increase African women’s access to a range of digital financial services including loans and micro-insurance.

The grants, for $1 million and $300,000 respectively, will be disbursed through the Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility, a blended finance vehicle supported by the Bank, to two financial technology firms, Pula Advisors Kenya Ltd., and M-KOPA Kenya Ltd.

Pula Advisors will use the $1 million for research of social, cultural and economic factors that impact women farmers’ access to micro-insurance in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia. Research findings will inform the design and implementation of gender-centric insurance products. The project will be undertaken over a 3-year time frame.

“This grant funding will be used to leverage technology to develop innovative and responsive loan and insurance products that can spur productivity and inclusion, especially for our women smallholder farmers and traders.” said Sheila Okiro, the Bank’s Coordinator for ADFI.

The three-year project will have three phases: product development; piloting; and scaling; the outcomes are expected to benefit 360,000 farmers, 50% of them women, as well as boost farm yields by up to 30%. This will also raise incomes and enhance household and national food security.

M-KOPA will use the $300,000 grant funding for research involving 250 women and 250 men in Kenya’s Kisumu, Eldoret and Machakos counties. The company will assess the barriers to and opportunities for women’s access to digital financial services and financial literacy programmes via smartphone, and use the research insights to design a financial services app that is relevant to small-scale women traders.

The project, approved by the Bank on 9 February, 2021, will benefit women with no or limited access to financial services that run small informal businesses. Once developed, the mobile app will be used to pilot small loans to the women traders.

Both projects align with ADFI’s digital products and innovation and capacity building intervention pillars  as well as its cross-cutting focus on gender inclusion, a thematic running across all its interventions.

The PULA grant approval meets African Development Bank strategic goals, including the Ten-Year Strategy, two High-5 priority areas—feed Africa and improve the quality of life for Africans— and  the financial inclusion strategies of Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia. 

The M-KOPA project is aligned with the Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program that seeks to increase access to finance for women.

ADFI is a pan-African initiative designed to accelerate digital financial inclusion throughout Africa, with the goal of ensuring that 332 million more Africans, 60% of them women, gain access to the formal economy. The Facility was formally launched in June 2019 at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Current ADFI partners are the French Development Agency (AFD); the French Treasury’s Ministry of Economy and Finance; The Government of Luxembourg’s Ministry of Finance; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the African Development Bank, which also hosts the fund.

*AfDB

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Les Margaret Africa 2021:JFD is unveiling a new generation of leaders ready to shape the future.
March 9, 2021 | 0 Comments

JFD, an organisation honoring and connecting women who change the world since 2013, took the occasion of International Women’s Day to unveil the 2021 winners of les Margaret Africa Awards and the first young winners of les Margaret Africa Junior Awards, under the High Patronage of Mr Emmanuel MACRON, President of the French Republic.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of Education, Youth and Sports,Elisabeth Moreno, French Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister, in charge of Equality between Women and Men, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, Cédric O, French Minister of State for Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, Sira Sylla, Member of Parliament, member of the Foreign Affairs Commission and Wilfrid Lauriano do Rego, Coordinator of the Presidential Council for Africa, presented the awards alongside Delphine Remy-Boutang, CEO the Bureau & JFD. During the digital ceremony, JFD also revealed the results of the 2021 JFD x Anova. The entire study, which will be available from March 23, provides valuable insights into perception of digital professions in Gabon, Central Africa.

“I would like to salute the creativity and boldness of the 2021 winners of les Margaret Awards. They are the new leaders shaping the future. JFD is pursuing its mission to unveil the next digital champions and is contributing to their success by mobilizing major political, media and economic players such as the World Bank Group, EDF Group, La Poste Group, Crédit Agricole Group, Microsoft France, Total, Mastercard, Dassault Systèmes, Idemia, PayPal… In addition to media visibility valued at 1 million euros and support for acceleration and growth for one year, we will organize the first ever JFD Entrepreneurship Expedition on October 11, International Girls’ Day. The winners will be invited to walk in the footsteps of Margaret Hamilton in the USA, Europe and Africa.”, says Delphine Remy-Boutang, CEO the Bureau & JFD, President GEN France.

Les Margaret Awards 2021 laureates are:

Margaret Entrepreneur Africa:   

Nneile Nkholise, Co-Founder & CEO 3DIMO, which automates the analysis of livestock data to monitor animal health. This in-app generates a universally traceable digital identification of each cow linked to a farmer and will provide the farmer with a tool to record animal vaccinations, movements and inventory control.

🇿🇦  South Africa

Margaret Intrapreneur Africa:   

Eloho Omame, Founder FirstCheck Africa (ex-MD Endeavor Nigeria), is piloting a fund with a community of women business angels and investors, focused on women, to make it easier for African women entrepreneurs in the digital world to raise capital.

🇳🇬  Nigéria

Margaret Junior Africa:   

Xaviera Kowo, 18, Programmer, who has developed a waste treatment robot. Capable of picking up debris on its way to transport it to a defined area (garbage garbage cans, recycling center…), in record time. 

🇨🇲  Cameroon

Jury’s coup de coeur:

Rose Goyéli Tuo, 15, X-Market, an application for monitoring urbanization, allowing management of the often anarchic implantation of roadside stores. It thus reduces accidents, neighborhood quarrels, and altercations between vendors and public authorities (seizures, destruction of goods, etc.).

🇨🇮  Ivory Coast

Founded in 2013 by the Bureau, JFD, the women’s innovation movement, celebrates and connects women who are changing the world.  JFD aims to inspire and encourage women to reveal themselves and innovate. JFD, it’s also les Margaret Awards, which each year celebrates women who dare, innovate, and undertake. It is also a club founded in 2016. Based in Paris and since 2019 in Libreville, Gabon, the JFD Club is a network of more than 400 influential women who meet throughout the year to share and network.  In 2018, the Margaret Foundation is launched to support projects by committed women, notably by offering scholarships and training for young women wishing to move into innovation professions and raise their awareness of entrepreneurship. 2019 marks the first publication of the JFD Manifesto for an Inclusive Digital World”. www.joinjfd.com  

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Spotlight Initiative to the rescue in fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe
March 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

The Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls is so critical now more than ever in the fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe, according to a statement by the EU Delegation in Zimbabwe on International Women’s Day under the theme: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.

 It is reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a dim light on the progress made in achieving gender equality by 2030 in Zimbabwe as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 It is added that a little over one year since the pandemic struck, a myriad of studies and surveys have reported  exacerbation of gender inequalities as women and girls continue to bear the brunt of unpaid labour, while being disproportionately at risk of violence compared to their male counterparts.  The pandemic is indeed not only a health crisis but also a social one.

The COVID-19 pandemic and measures taken to curb the spread of the disease, such as national lockdowns have resulted in what is now dubbed “The Shadow Pandemic” as emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.[1] Teenage pregnancies are also on the rise as a result of the lockdowns.

The world has come to understand that violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights. Such a recognition illustrates that gender-based violence is not as a result of women and girls’ innate vulnerability, but a deeply-rooted structural discrimination against women and girls that perpetuates gender inequality.

Gender inequality lies at the very root of gender-based violence, and unless the issue is addressed, a future where women and girls live free from violence and discrimination is futile. Thus, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues and efforts to curb its spread intensify, now is the time to equally buckle up and work hard to achieve gender equality in spite of the challenges the pandemic has revealed.

This is a matter of urgency as women are at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic as healthcare and frontline workers both at institutional level and at home.

The Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls is so critical now more than ever in the fight against gender-based violence in Zimbabwe.

The European Union (EU) has committed USD21m for phase 1 of implementation of the Spotlight Initiative and is leading the fight for gender equality from the front.  The Spotlight Initiative takes the EU political commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly SDG 5, to the next level.

With the generous funding of the EU, the four-year Spotlight Initiative programme aims to:Ensure that Zimbabwe adopts and implements legislation that strengthens the Constitutional provisions on gender equality, which leads to effective prevention and response to all forms of GBV and strengthens institutions to be more gender-responsive in their overall mandates, design programmes that advance prevention of violence, provide essential services to survivors, and foster a strong social movement against violence and harmful practices at the national and sub-national levels.

 It is reported that achieving gender equality and ending violence against women and girls can only be realized through a whole-society approach. For Zimbabwe to protect and ensure the rights of women and reap the benefit from engaging more than half of the population to recover better from COVID-19, a deliberate policy and strategic focus should include:

First, ensuring equal access to education. Gender inequality in education leads to higher fertility, higher child mortality, higher malnutrition, and lower education investments with the effects often being quite large. Policies designed to boost enrolment would particularly help poor women and thus contributing to poverty reduction in income and non-income dimensions. In addition, the educational attainment and future financial status of children is much likely to reflect those of the mother than those of the father. Considering that human capital is the most important prerequisite for growth, education and enhanced economic status for women are critical to meeting long-term development objectives.

Second, women must be drawn into the economic mainstream. The consequence of decline in women’s relative or absolute economic status has both an ethical and long-term economic implication. Any process of growth that fails to improve the welfare of the people experiencing the greatest hardship, broadly recognized to be women, has failed to accomplish one of the principal goals of development. In the long run, the low status of women would translate into slow economic growth.

Third, regulating and legalizing informal-sector employment where the majority of the female labour force (about 90 % according to some estimates) is employed would improve the economic status of women through facilitating access to credit and other services.

Fourth, increased participation of women in governance and political decision making at all levels. Women’s empowerment either through affirmative action or other avenues is associated with improved governance and reduced corruption.

Gender equality is a critical economic issue for Zimbabwe, directly linked to growth and poverty reduction outcomes, and not a marginal social or women’s issue concerned with equity, and thus should be prioritized as a matter of urgency for the country to progress.

The Spotlight Initiative, led by the UN Resident Coordinator, is being implemented by six UN Agencies (UN Women, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA and UNICEF) in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, Parliament, Independent Commissions, Civil Society, Academic Institutions, the Private Sector, and the Media and directly and indirectly targets 11 million beneficiaries, particularly rural women and girls, women and girls with disabilities and those living with HIV.


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Employ more female journalists, media houses told
March 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Media stakeholders have urged Kenya’s media organizations to recruit more female journalists to achieve gender equality in the industry.

The Kenya Media Sector Working Group, in a statement, said recruitment of female journalists would assist the media in achieving affirmative action.

“More women should be recruited into journalism to ensure the media provides equal opportunity and space for both men and women. This requires affirmative action to urgently remedy the gender skew,“  read part of the statement signed by the group’s chairman Chairman Churchill Otieno.

Kenya Media Sector Working Group brings together Kenya Editors’ Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), and Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), among others.

Consequently, the stakeholders also raised concerns about the recent rise of journalists’ retrenchment and pay cuts in the media houses.

They termed the acts as unsustainable, noting that the decreasing number of journalists will cause long-term effects on the industry, roles, and responsibility of the media in society.

They asked the media house owners to carry out self-audit in the newsroom on the skills available and the ones needed.

To solve the challenges bedeviling the industry, they suggested the establishment of a Media Fund to ensure consistency and continuity of independent and diverse media.

They committed to working with Parliament to develop a law to establish an independent and progressive Media Fund.

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Kenyan lecturer Prof Catherine Ngila Bags L’Oréal-UNESCO Award
February 18, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Prof Catherine Ngila
Prof Catherine Ngila

Kenyan lecturer Prof Catherine Ngila is one of the five women recognized by L’Oréal-Unesco 2021.

The five were awarded for their contributions in mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry, and informatics globally during the International Day of Women and Girls in Science held on February 11.

Prof Ngila, the acting Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, was recognized for introducing, developing, and applying nanotechnology-based analytical methods to monitor water pollutants.

Her innovation is essential for the development of water resource management without degrading the environment.

The other four women are Prof Kyojo Nozaki, a professor of Chemistry in Tokyo Japan, Professor Shafi Goldwasser, the Director of the Simons Institute for Theory of Computing and professor in electrical and computer science in MIT USA; Prof Franscoise Combes, chair of Galaxies and Cosmology in France, and Prof Alicia Dickenstein, a mathematics professor at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The former Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic and Student Affairs (DVC-AA) at Riara University holds a bachelor’s degree in Education. She also has Masters of Science in Chemistry from Kenyatta University and a Ph.D. in Analytical Environmental Chemistry from the University of South Wales, Australia.

According to Unesco Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Shamila Nair Bedouelle, attracting women to a scientific or technological discipline is a big challenge.

“We must also know how to retain them, ensuring that their careers are not strewn with obstacles that their achievements are recognized and supported by the international scientific community,” she noted.

The awards are part of the 23rd international prize for women in science.

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African women in science are making waves
February 12, 2021 | 0 Comments

To mark International Day for Women and Girls in Science, we asked contributors to the recently released Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa about the science that went into the Bank co-publication and their experiences as pioneering women in their field.

Maimuna Nalubega, Ph.D, Chief Water Development Officer, African Development Bank

Maimuna Nalubega, Ph.D, Chief Water Development Officer, African Development Bank
Maimuna Nalubega, Ph.D, Chief Water Development Officer, African Development Bank

Q: The Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa explores the links between sanitation and wastewater, and ecosystem health and human health. What role does science play in exploring those links?

The role that science plays in the link between sanitation and wastewater, ecosystem health and human health is rooted in the characteristics of water and its centrality to human and ecosystems health. Water of adequate quality and quantity is essential for human health and ecosystems health.

Water is called a universal solvent because of its ability to dissolve more substances than any other liquid. As it moves through the ground, the rivers and even the air, the quality of water changes with the contents of the medium. When we use technology to abstract water from its sources for domestic (or agricultural) uses, it is important that the water that is finally availed to users meets the required quality. scientists identify the most appropriate sources and means of abstraction of  water, and through research, identifies and optimizes the required treatment options to make the water potable or fit for the purpose.

Similarly, when we use water for domestic or industrial purposes,  it may not be suitable for return into the environment or water bodies. Without treatment, such water, or fecal sludge, will pollute the environment, spread diseases, and damage ecosystems. Scientists will quantify and characterize the wastewater, solid waste or fecal sludge and identify the best and most affordable options for treating this waste – including reuse.

Q: How did you apply your background as a public health and environmental engineer, postgraduate research on the role of wetlands on wastewater treatment and ecosystem protection, and current Bank position to collaborate on the Atlas?

In terms of my work on the Atlas, my experience in sanitary engineering training and research served three main purposes: for the conceptualization and design of the research project, along with our partners, UNEP and GRID-Arendal; to identify resource persons who could contribute to the preparation of the Atlas; and to review and provide feedback on the scientific content of the Atlas.

My primary role as a water and sanitation expert, and indeed the primary role of the Bank’s water development and sanitation department – which is in an operations complex – is not research. But we do collaborate with researchers to help identify solutions to specific problems.

Robinah Kulabako, Ph.D, Sr. Lecturer and Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Makerere University; Lead author, Chapter 2, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Robinah Kulabako, Ph.D, Sr. Lecturer and Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Makerere University; Lead author, Chapter 2, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Q: You led on the Atlas’ second chapter on wastewater streams. Can you point out where a scientific approach or methodology helped form the chapter conclusions that were reached?

We had to deploy scientific methodology: what is the source of this problem or what has been done about it? What is missing then? What could we recommend?

There was a lot of scientific research to review. It was not enough just to get the information. In science-based research, one needs to do what we call data analysis, so that you can make inferences from this data that will guide the conclusions that you draw.

For example, looking at industrial wastewater streams and effluents, we looked at the chain of effluent from major polluters in countries. The idea of ‘management,’ is that we ultimately protect the environment, given the quality as well as quantity of this effluent. Reviewing research studies and reports resulted in huge tables of data that we had to make palatable for the sake of the Atlas. One such huge table now appears as Figure 2.5 in the Atlas showing industrial effluent management in the African region. More palatable and pretty clear.

Q: In addition to your research, you are also a Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Makerere University in Uganda. You see the future of science in civil engineering in your classes. How does the future look for women and girls in science from where you sit?

I can actually see that the future for women and girls in science is gradually picking up. When I joined the department as an undergraduate student, we were only four girls in civil environmental engineering out of about 26 students. In the class before mine, there was only one girl. Over the years, I have seen the number of girls grow to between 30 to 40 now, in a class of about 100 students. And I must also confess, the performance of the girls has also improved with time: a few years ago we had a graduating class in civil engineering where six of the top ten graduates were girls.

At Makerere University, we have policies to promote women and girls to pursue technology, engineering, math programs…scholarships for training programs.

There are some challenges, the first one being fear, another is time demands on work and family. Some women and girls fear that maybe they will not manage, or they are made to believe that it is mostly males that are successful at pursuing this career.

I have faced this myself. When I was in high school, I believed I wanted to be an engineer. My class teacher at the time – a female – told me, “No, you cannot do engineering, that course is for males.” But I had family who encouraged me to pursue my passion. So, I quietly decided to do engineering without my teacher knowing. When she found out, she was not happy – she also said to me that if I pursue this engineering course, I will never get a man to marry me. Can you imagine?

I can tell you that the moment I graduated from university, I got married. This experience helped me realize that a teacher can limit their students – which is not a good thing.

Olufunke Cofie, Ph.D, Country Representative, International Water Management Institute – West Africa; Co-author, Chapter 6, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Olufunke Cofie, Ph.D, Country Representative, International Water Management Institute – West Africa; Co-author, Chapter 6, Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa

Q: How would you describe the contribution of science-based research in determining the Atlas’ findings and recommendations?

The entire Atlas, including the findings and recommendations, were based on the body of knowledge generated from several investigations by diverse experts.

From available evidence, we were able to explain the state and trends in wastewater management and sanitation delivery in Africa, and to highlight the human health and ecosystem impacts of poor sanitation and wastewater management. We analyzed the pertinent policy and institutional arrangements and provided recommendations to progress towards achieving Africa’s Water Vision 2025 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2030(link is external).

However, one of the Atlas’ conclusions is that “there is little information and data on wastewater generation, collection and treatment, especially for industrial and agricultural wastewater streams, in the majority of African countries.”

So, any gaps in the Atlas are because scientific evidence is lacking or not accessible. Hence, the Atlas is not just about science-based research – equally important is accessible research results to inform policy and practice.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about why pursuing a degree in soil science appealed to you? To what degree is science your passion?

As a child, while helping my mum to prepare food for younger siblings, I often wondered how by adding water to custard powder, the color immediately changed from white to yellow slurry. It baffled me, so I developed an interest in chemistry, which happened to be my best subject in school.

I wanted to do science, but actually I was interested in pharmacy. But when I got to the point of selecting core subjects, my Uncle in an upper class at the same school told me, “You cannot do physics, drop it.”

I ended up dropping physics so I could not study pharmacy at university. I applied to study agricultural economics at the University of Nigeria-Nsukka, but when the admission letter came – I had been admitted into soil science. I must confess that was the first time I learned of soil science. I went in for it and later focused on soil chemistry, which allowed me to follow my childhood passion of studying something that would involve chemistry.

Q: When people say you are a role model for women and girls considering careers in science, you respond by saying…

Shine in your uniqueness. Your uniqueness is unique; your uniqueness distinguishes you.

*Source AfDB.Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. Learn more about the Sanitation and Wastewater Atlas for Africa via this link.

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Kenyans urged to shun politicians fanning flames of violence
February 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Bishop Dr. Nancy Kinuthia of Glorious Family Church Nakuru
Bishop Dr. Nancy Kinuthia of Glorious Family Church Nakuru

A section of church leaders has called on Kenyans to reject politicians who instigate violence.

Speaking in Kenya’s Nakuru town, the leaders went ahead and urged the youths to avoid being used to cause chaos by reporting those giving them handouts to relevant authorities.

“As leaders, we must stop using the youths to cause chaos for political reasons. We want to unite and live peacefully as Kenyans in any part of this country,” said Bishop Dr. Nancy Kinuthia of Glorious Family Church Nakuru

Kenyans were further asked to elect only leaders who offer solutions to their problems and ignore those with selfish motives.

The men in clothes lamented over the recent reported political chaos, saying they risk evoking 2007 memories when the country plunged into post-election violence.

They appealed to the government to take stern action against politicians inciting people ahead of the 2022 polls.

Their request comes in less than one week after the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), an agency mandated to address and reduce inter-ethnic conflicts, put politicians fanning violence on notice.

NCIC Chairperson Reverend Samuel Kobia said the agency would be publishing the names of persons or institutions whose words or conduct undermine peace in the country in a naming and shaming list.

Kobia said any politician whose name will appear in the list of shame three times would be barred from seeking an elective post.

“If a politician or any other Kenyan has appeared on the list of shame more than three times, he or she will be promoted to the wall of shame. We are working with other agencies to ensure they do not hold any political office ever,” he said.

The NCIC said it would be monitoring activities and utterances of politicians, and anyone who will cause political, ethnic unrest will be dealt with according to the law.

“The intolerance that we have witnessed in the recent weeks and months are only symptomatic of what is likely to happen and even to get worse if it is not dealt with urgently. We need to deal with this interference because we know it is what led us to 2007/2008 post-election violence,” said Kobia.

Recently, unruly goons disrupted rallies held by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the deputy president William Ruto      Kiambu’s Githurai market and Nairobi’s market, respectively.

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Sierra Leone: Mariatu Kabba nominated for 50 most influential women award.
January 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Girl rights Activist, Change Maker and Journalism Mentor, Mariatu Kabba has been nominated for the 50 most influential women in Sierra Leone.

The fifty most influential Sierra Leonean Women award is an initiative of twenty -two youth and women -led organisations supported by Kids advocacy Network to spotlight and recognise important role women play towards national development.

Mariatu Kabbais a Journalism mentor working for BBC Media Action Sierra Leone and Activist for girls’ empowerment and peacebuilding started her radio career at Radio Mount Aureol/Cotton Tree News (CTN), in 2013 which was known to be the largest public service media project in post-war Sierra Leone, whilst studying for her BA in Mass Communication at Fourah Bay College.

Through her work, Madam Kabba has been able to give voice to voiceless and deprived women and girls while telling the inspiring stories of other young women and girls who push boundaries and make a mark in areas that have traditional been male dominated.

“In my passionate quest to respond to the leadership development needs of women and girl, I Co-Founded Strong Women, Strong Girls Sierra Leone, a non-profit women/girls empowerment Initiative geared towards strengthening the socioeconomic status of women and girls and providing them with the knowledge and leadership skills needed to be successful in life and to actively contribute to the social change for a sustainable and healthy society,’’she said.

“I am passionate and determined, driven by ideas for changes I would like to make happen in my country and in Africa as a whole. Some of these passions and dreams I have already been able to follow’’

The Journalism Mentor and Activist for girls’ empowerment said that her organization has touched many girls in deprived communities bringing hopes for a brighter future adding that her motivation is waking up every day knowing that she has been obligated by God to serve Him and to help humanity.

When asked how does she feel been nominated for the 50 Most influential Sierra Leonean women award, she replied,”Sometimes you feel like you’re just doing the little you can in touching lives, with no knowledge of whether the world will actually acknowledge it. It always astounds me when people do, and my work resonates with them. It makes it all worthwhile.” “It feels great to be nominated for the 50 most influential Sierra Leonean women Award.”

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