The Merck Foundation, in partnership with Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana, have launched a children’s story book on infertility to help strengthen family values of love and respect from childhood.
The 19-page book titled “Kofi’s Story,” has special messages addressed to readers from both Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who is Ghana’s Ambassador for the “Merck More Than a Mother” Campaign, and Dr. Rasha Kelej, the Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation and President of “Merck More Than a Mother”.
Ghana’s First Lady, Mrs. Akufo-Addo, in an address, said she was happy to work closely with Merck Foundation to empower women with knowledge, and raise awareness among communities, with special focus on the youth through this story, on how to prevent infertility, protect and also to value themselves whether they were mothers or not.
She gave a gist of the story, explaining how a young childless couple, faced with the enormous socio-cultural harassments from both families and their community, were able to overcome their challenges of infertility after many years of marriage, by eventually seeking for medical help.
Mrs Akufo-Addo noted although it takes both a man a woman to make babies, the fact still remained that in many cultures whilst childless women still suffered discrimination, stigma and ostracism, and were blamed for being infertile, although studies have shown that 50 per cent of infertility cases were due to men.
She said one in every four couples in developing countries suffered infertility, saying, majority of these cases were attributable to untreated infectious diseases, from sexually transmitted infections, female genital mutilation, unsafe abortion, and unsafe delivery, hence, prevention was very important.
“We need to encourage men to speak up and discuss their infertility issues openly and know that fertility is a shared responsibility,” adding that “infertility is not a curse, but a condition that could be cured,” she said.
The First Lady said it was important that children were prepared and equipped with the right information for the future in order to inculcate the values of love and respect at their tender ages for social change towards the issue of fertility.
She said women should be seen more than just mothers, but must also be acknowledged, as productive members in society who should be accorded equal respect as men, to ensure sustainable development globally.
Dr. Kelej expressed her gratitude to the First Lady for her great efforts as an Ambassador to empower infertile women in the country, and said the book was part of the “Merck More Than a Mother” campaign to encourage parents and caregivers to start teaching respect and nurturing empathy from a very young age.
The aim of focusing on young people, she said, was to create a culture, which ensured that children grew with a positive mind on infertility issues, adding that, “this story is our way to empower our boys to develop true respect for women and know few facts about infertility prevention and how it affects both men and women equally”.
She said it was believed that if boys were thought these qualities at their schools and through media, it would guide their actions and emotions as they grow up, to learn how to control their behaviour during their pre-school and elementary school years.
Dr. Kelej said the Merck Foundation had provided clinical training on fertility specialty, cancer and diabetes for some Ghanaian medical professionals, and would continue to work in partnership with the Ministry of Health and other institutions to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care through its nationwide programmes to break the stigma both in Ghana and in other African countries.
Copies of the books were later autographed by both the First Lady and Dr. Kelej for participants at the launch.