By Emelia Naa Ayeley Aryee/Senior Journalist

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, together with African First Ladies, marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation 2024 as a part of the Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” and “Educating Linda” initiative.

Merck Foundation highlighted the harms and danger of FGM and urged the African communities to END FGM through one of the 15 episodes of their “Our Africa”, pan African TV program conceptualized, produced, directed, and co-hosted by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.

“Our Africa” TV Program has been broadcast on National and Prime TV stations of many African countries like Kenya,  Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, and more, and is currently on all social media handles of Dr. Rasha Kelej and Merck Foundation.

“Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) stands as a grave issue deeply ingrained in numerous cultures across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is important that we take immediate action and speak out against this longstanding and harmful practice. FGM deprives women and girls of their dignity, jeopardizes their health, inflicts unnecessary pain and suffering, and imposes lasting complications, including infertility, yes. Infertility that resulted from untreated infectious diseases which resulted from FGM practice,” Dr. Kelej said.

“FGM causes other complications such as infections, stillborn babies, and, in some instances, even death. It is crucial to challenge and eradicate this damaging tradition.” she continued.

According to the WHO data, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia where FGM is primarily practiced. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.

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“Through ‘OUR Africa’ TV program we have conveyed to the communities that FGM only harms girls and women physically and also psychologically, and that it has no health benefits. Rather, FGM can lead to severe medical complications in women including infertility, as infection due to FGM is one of the main causes of Infertility. FGM also increases the risk of HIV transmission and can cause severe complications during childbirth. We must understand that FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. This practice needs to stop immediately.” Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej added.

Merck Foundation believes that Education is one of the most critical areas of women’s empowerment and will definitely help in stopping practices such as FGM, which do not benefit anyone.

“Together with African First Ladies, we have contributed to the future of 425 girls by providing scholarships to continue their education and also providing essential school items, through our “Educating Linda” program in many African countries such as Burundi, Malawi, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and more.

Moreover, we have benefitted thousands of girls through our awareness campaign which includes releasing many inspiring children’s storybooks, animation films, and songs to support girl education and end child marriage.

Additionally, Merck Foundation is adapting their storybooks to create interesting animation films with the purpose of reaching out to the communities to raise awareness on the importance of supporting girls’ education.

We also launch annual Awards of best Media work, Film, Song, and Fashion Designs to raise awareness on sensitive social issues including Ending FGM and Supporting Girl Education,” added Senator Kelej.

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Watch Episode 6 of “Our Africa by Merck Foundation” TV program on Ending FGM here: https://youtu.be/7GtXkBYv_94

About Merck Foundation

The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, which aims to improve the health and well-being 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. Follow the social media of Merck Foundation: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Flickr.

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