Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, successfully conducted the third edition of their engagement and impact report of their programs ‘90 Minutes with Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, The Merck Foundation CEO’ 2024 with the aim to update and discuss their programs and its impact and build advocacy to break infertility stigma, support girl education and transform patient care.
The session showcased Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej’s engagement with Media Members, Merck Foundation Alumni, Merck Foundation Award Winners, Social Media Followers and other stakeholders, through a Videoconference to address several critical health and social issues, in addition to sharing her long experience, challenges, solutions and success stories of Merck Foundation with audiences in social media.
Link to Facebook Livestream of Season 3 of 90 Minutes with Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej:
Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation expressed, “I am thrilled by the overwhelming acknowledgment extended by all. I deeply appreciate everyone for attending this session to discuss my perspectives, work and life experiences. Throughout this session, I addressed various questions and provided update on our programs, their impact, and our future plans. It is my hope that the information shared will prove beneficial to many, inspiring them to realize their full potential and pursue their aspirations in life.”
As part of this important meeting, participants explored Senator, Dr. Rasha's personal and professional sides through questions about her likes, dislikes, hobbies, personality, education, early life, career, achievements, success stories and challenges she overcame. Additionally, her vision and plans for achieving the objectives of the Merck Foundation, as well as her personal goals, were discussed. 
The session was attended by over 150 participants from 36 countries.
Every year, the program adds innovation and fun to its theme to add a further sense of personal touch for the audience. This year, the program also included a special CEO segment ‘What’s the story’, where Dr. Rasha narrated the sentiment and revealed the tale behind certain photos over the past 12 years since she started her role in Africa.
“This was one of my most favorite part of the session was when I was asked to mention the story behind few photos of my country visits and activities. It made me revisit my journey and beautiful memories in our beautiful continent,” she added.
Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej has been successfully leading the Merck Foundation programs for the past 12 years and works closely with more than 24 Africa’s First Ladies as Ambassadors of Merck Foundation and Ministries of Health, Education, Information, Communication, Gender, Academia, Media and Art societies in 52 countries.
Senator Kelej has been recognized as one of 100 Most Influential African Women for five consecutive years from 2019 to 2023. She has also been awarded Doctorate of Letters Honoris Causa (D.Litt) by Krishna World University, India for her outstanding achievement in the social and healthcare development. Moreover, under her leadership, Merck Foundation was also recognized as the “2022 NGO OF THE YEAR”.

She was also recently awarded the Global She Achievers Awards 2024, for her efforts to empower women in STEM, support girl education, and building healthcare capacity in Africa and beyond.
Below is the glimpse of the session:
Dr. Rosalyn Sando Toe-Massaquoi-Teahjay from Liberia asked, “Recently, the news about one of Merck Foundation Alumni, Dr. Louise Kpoto, being appointed as the Health Minister of Liberia was shared. That is truly a milestone. How excited were you to see the fruits of the foundation’s hard work being paid off?”
Senator, Dr. Rasha responded, “I was so excited and proud, Many congratulations to her. This was the objective of our program, that we are developing and advancing the skills of the future leaders of healthcare in the country. Merck Foundation has provided 1740 scholarships for doctors from 52 countries in more than 44 critical and underserved medical specialities which is something I am very proud of. We also trained the first specialists in the country in many specialists like Oncology, Fertility, Embryology, Respiratory Care, etc. We are also developing the future leaders with top education, top knowledge and skills that can take a country’s healthcare landscape to a different level.
Usually, when a foundation does work, you can see the foundation achieve objectives but future generations get an opportunity to see the vision come true. But, when you can watch the vision come true in front of you, it is amazing. We left a big legacy in Africa.
It makes me feel really satisfied that we have achieved such transformation in our journey, not only in present patient care but also the future because these people will take their countries to a different level in the future.”
Gloria Milimu from The Standard Publication, Kenya acknowledged Dr. Rasha’s work to create “More Than a Mother” campaign, and asked, “Do you face challenges in addressing stigma about infertility, how do you navigate through those challenges?”
Senator Rasha responded, “I thought I will face a lot of challenges when I started this campaign, but everyone was so accepting of our More Than a Mother campaign . The partners were very excited to implement and be a part of it and support the whole program.
We understood from the beginning that if you want to address a social issue to create a culture shift, changing the people’s mindsets will take time. It will not happen overnight . It needs consistency, regular follow up and improvement in different tools and technology and the development of people’s mindset by reaching people through different avenues and outlets.
I knew from the start, to make this impactful change, I will need to address this social issue on all levels through multi-sectoral approach like art, media, songs, movies, training and educating doctors, engagement on social media, and above all partnering with Africa’s First Ladies as ambassadors of “More Than a Mother” campaign.
She further shared, “I come from Egypt and Africa. I was aware of the issue and this larger change required some kind of discipline, which is a part of my personality and approach since the beginning. Hence, I knew I will empower women every day, be consistent towards achieving the goals of this campaign and I was prepared for it.
Until today, we worked with 24 Africa’s First Ladies as ambassadors of “More Than a Mother” campaign, and this was a very important platform. We also released children’s storybooks and animation films to influence children with the aim to build their character and change of mindset while growing up.

Now, if you even search ‘Infertility’ in Africa, you will find thousands of articles and stories online. So, we have come a long way and reached a great level of creating awareness on infertility issues in Africa and we will continue to do so.”
Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” is a powerful campaign that defines interventions to build quality and equitable Reproductive and Fertility Care Capacity, Break Infertility Stigma and Raise Awareness about Infertility Prevention and Male Infertility.
The meeting was also live streamed on Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej Facebook page, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej Twitter handle and Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej Instagram page.
“After the success of the third season of this meeting, I am excited for the next season, to be able to engage with everyone. Stay tuned to know about the next session!,” added Dr. Kelej.

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