First Lady Gertrude Mutharika has partnered German organisation Merck Foundation to implement the More than a Mother initiative to help break silence on issues of infertility.
The initiative, launched under the theme Addressing Infertility, Restoring Dignity to the Affected, seeks to empower men and women with infertility issues through access to information, education and mindset change.
Speaking during the launch at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe on Tuesday, chief executive officer of Merck Foundation and president of Merck More than a Mother, Rasha Kelej, said the campaign has been created to, among others, break the stigma targeted at infertile women and raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility.
She said: “In many cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This often results in divorce or physical and psychological violence. But women deserve respect even if they cannot have children.”
Kelej said the foundation, through the More Than a Mother initiative, will provide special trainings for local oncologists and diabetes experts in India, Malaysia and Egypt, as the initiative is also looking at issues of cancer and diabetes.
On his part, Minister of Health and Population Jappie Mhango said Malawi recognises non-communicable diseases as an emerging problem and that through the various interventions under the More Than a Mother initiative such as trainings, the ministry will be able to give better medical services to the public.
In her remarks, Mutharika said time has come to break the silence.
“Issues of infertility have been around throughout history, and it has serious social and psychological consequences such as abuse and marriage breakdowns. Women are often the ones at the receiving end of the ridicule and name calling aimed at taking away the dignity of those affected. And even the solutions accepted by society, such as polygamy, are damaging,” she noted.
Research has shown that 90 percent of infertility cases are reversible with medical treatment and care, and the initiative will provide medical awareness to those affected.
Locally, the programme will jointly be implemented by Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust and Merck Foundation.