By: Nyima Sillah
First Lady, Her Excellency, Madam Fatou Bah-Barrow on Wednesday during the 10th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary said through joining forces, all barriers to a brighter future for women and girls in Africa could be smashed.
The event held in Mumbai, India, has brought together First Ladies from across Africa to discuss strategies and impacts of their partnership programs in building healthcare capacity, breaking infertility stigma, and supporting girls’ education.
“Together, we can create a brighter future for women, infertile women, and girls in Africa by breaking down barriers and improving health care education for all. Our work is far from done. We call for further collaborations and support from large organizations and individuals to continue benefiting those in Africa who face limited resources, human capacity challenges, and harmful traditional practices,” Madam Barrow said as she delivered her statement on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the First Lady highlighted scores of significant progresses with Merck within the years of partnership, explaining that they have made vital progress in tackling critical issues, and empowered over 40 local healthcare providers with the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver quality health services. This, she continued, has led to the improvement of maternal health, and improved access to essential healthcare services in various communities. She said focus has also been placed on raising awareness and challenging the deeply ingrained stigma and discrimination against women, especially infertile women.
“We wish to see a Gambia, where all women are more likely to seek medical help without fear of judgment and will gain confidence to pursue opportunities that were previously denied to them due to poverty or other forms of limitations. We continuously try to ensure that women are respected and better understood within their communities in developing our advocacy campaigns. We have taken into account the importance that information sharing and discrimination has within communities to effect the change,” the First Lady stressed.
The First Lady further stated that over the years, journalists have also been trained by Merck in reporting sensitive and health-related issues, especially to bring the cultural shift.
“Our initiative has not only increased access to education for girls but also created a supportive environment, where they can strive. As part of the educative “LINDA” program, underprivileged girls have been sponsored to the university level and provided with required school materials each year. We firmly believe that the more girls receive quality education, the better equipped they will be to pursue higher careers improving their economic prospects,” she underscored.
Madam Barrow expressed gratitude to the Merck Foundation, saying the commitment has been instrumental in achieving their goals.
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