The President of Tanzania, H.E. SAMIA SULUHU HASSAN; Merck Foundation CEO, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej; The Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt. Hon Robinah Nabbanja; The Prime Minister of Namibia, Rt. Hon Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila; and The Prime Minister of TOGO, Rt. Hon Victoire Tomegah Dogbé amongst 100 Most Influential African Women 2022. The list of 100 Most Influential African Women 2022 is made up of prominent African women breaking the bias across the world and includes 2 Presidents, 5 Vice Presidents, 5 Prime Ministers, Ministers, and Top CEOs of both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of “More Than a Mother” Campaign has been featured in the list of 100 Most Influential African Women 2022 for the fourth consecutive year, by a leading Rating that firm launches this annual publication to highlight and celebrate African women in leadership inspiring the next generation and changing the perception of women breaking bias and barriers in their career, business and life pursuits.
Merck Foundation CEO and President of “More Than a Mother” Campaign and Member of the Egyptian Senate, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej has been recognized for her contribution towards advancing healthcare capacity, patient care transformation, supporting girl education & women empowerment in African countries. It also appreciates her contribution, through Merck Foundation, towards empowering African women in the field of Research and Healthcare and empowering underprivileged young girls through ‘Educating Linda’ in Africa and developing countries. Speaking about being featured in the 100 Most Influential African Women list, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej says, “I am delighted and honored to be selected for the fourth year as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans and African Women, under the category of CSO & Philanthropy. Thank you all for recognizing my efforts and Merck Foundation’s commitment towards building healthcare capacity, transforming the patient care landscape with special focus on women’s health, and empowering women & girls so that they can reach their potential and pursue their dreams. I promise to continue to empower women, support girl education and improve access to quality and equitable healthcare in Africa, Asia and beyond. Congratulations for all the exceptional women who have been selected this year. Well deserved.”
Dr. Kelej is at the forefront of Merck Foundation’s programs that have been contributing to transformation of patient care landscape in public healthcare sectors in Africa and developing countries. “I am proud that in partnership with 20 African First Ladies as Ambassadors of More Than a Mother” Campaign, we have provided more than 1470 scholarships to young doctors from 50 countries. Scholarships of one-year, two-year, and three-year Diploma and Master Degree in more than 32 critical and underserved specialties are provided to these doctors. I am very proud that out of these over 650 are female medical graduates. This is close to 50% of the total beneficiaries, which is a great milestone for us” explains Dr. Kelej. Through the ‘Educating Linda’ program in partnership with the African First Ladies who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation ‘More Than a Mother’ campaign, she has contributed to the future of 1000’s of girls by providing scholarships and essential school items in many African countries. This program has benefitted many girls by providing scholarships in countries like Burundi, Central African Republic, DRC, Ghana, The Gambia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Moreover, 3,000 sets of essential school items have been distributed for girls’ schools in many countries like Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, and Zambia.
“I strongly believe that an educated girl will lead a healthy life, save lives, build a stronger family, earn a better income, make informed choices, empower her community, lift her country and reduce inequalities”, she adds. Merck Foundation has also announced the MARS Awards to appreciate and recognize ‘Best African Women Researchers’ and ‘Best Young African Researcher’. The aim is to empower women and young African researchers, advance their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Senator, Dr. Rasha works closely with her partners over the past 10 years, more than 20 African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media, and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. She also spearheads the very impressive Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign, which is her brainchild and a rallying call to Break Infertility Stigma and Empower Infertile & Childless Women, through, working closely with more than 20 African First Ladies, who are also the Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother”, over the past seven years.
Merck Foundation CEO strongly believes that Fashion and Art can contribute significantly to sensitizing our communities about different health and social issues including supporting girl education and women empowerment. She has added yet another accolade to her list of achievements with the conceptualization, production, direction, and presentation of “Our Africa by Merck Foundation”, a pan-African and unique TV program that raises awareness about a wide range of social and health issues in Africa through “Fashion and Art with Purpose” African Community, established by her. This TV program is broadcast across the continent on Prime TV channels and is also streaming on the social media handles of Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej and Merck Foundation. Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasizes on the idea behind this TV program, “I am very happy and proud of creating “Our Africa by Merck Foundation. The African continent is culturally very rich and colorful, and vibrant designs in African Fashion are proof of this. I have always admired Art and Fashion in Africa and I strongly believe that fashion and art should have a purpose beyond entertainment and looking good. They can contribute to sensitizing our communities about critical social and health issues. With this thought in mind, I came up with “Our Africa” TV program, which is both informational and entertaining.”
Dr. Kelej together with African First Ladies has been breaking the silence on a wide range of critical and sensitive social and health issues like Supporting Girl Education, Breaking Infertility Stigma, Stopping GBV and FGM, Ending Child Marriage and Empowering women at all levels; through many of her innovative and unique initiatives like; Creating more than 30 songs that she helped create and produce with many young talented musicians and singers across Africa in English, French, Portuguese and local languages. It is noteworthy that The President of Liberia, The Former First Lady of Burundi, and The daughter of the current President & First Lady of Burundi have also composed and sung songs for “Merck Foundation More than a Mother”. She has launched 8 children’s storybooks in three languages; English, French, and Portuguese, to educate and sensitize children about important issues from a young age. With the aim to raise awareness about the critical social and health issues of the continent, she has trained more than 2200 media persons in more than 35 countries, and also launches annually, 8 different Awards for best media coverage, fashion designs, films, and songs. The 2022 list of 100 Most Influential African Women has a representation of the most powerful African women from 36 African countries, chosen from various career backgrounds including diplomacy, philanthropy, politics, activism, entrepreneurship, business leadership, and entertainment. It includes many famous names like; H.E. SAMIA SULUHU HASSAN, The President of Tanzania; Rt. Hon Robinah Nabbanja, The Prime Minister of Uganda; Rt. Hon Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, The Prime Minister of Namibia and Rt. Hon Victoire Tomegah Dogbé, The Prime Minister of TOGO, amongst others.