“Merck More than a Mother” initiative will support Jackline Mwende, the recent victim of infertility stigma, throughout the rest of her life after having her hands brutally chopped off by her husband for failing to bear children after seven years of marriage. Merck aims to empower infertile women across the continent through access to information, health and change of mind-set through their initiative that was launched in June 2015 “More than a Mother”
“Jackeline Mwende, a young woman of 27 years from Masii, Machakos County in Kenya hands were hacked off - not by thieves but by her own husband for failing to conceive, even though he was the one with fertility problems. Her husband told her 'Today is your last day'. It is so shocking that someone would go to such an extent to batter his own wife and leave her nearly dead. Infertility should never be a reason to separate, hurt or kill your partner. There are so many options out there available to manage infertility” said Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament and the Ambassador for ‘Merck More than a Mother’ in Kenya.
“Through -Empowering Berna- project, Merck will support Jackeline Mwende throughout the rest of her life to empower and enable her to become an independent productive member in society. ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative will provide Mwende with a monthly income of Sh25,300, then will establish a business for her in which she will be able to generate a sustainable monthly income of not less than Sh25,000.
At the same time Merck will provide her with prosthetic hands in addition to the needed physical and physiological rehabilitation to enable her to support herself and stand on her own two feet despite the challenge of her brutal disability that was caused by the stigma of infertility – even though her husband is the one who was found with the infertility problem, yet she is still the one who bore the devastating consequences of the public stigma associated with it," said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.
“Mwende didn't deserve what she went through and especially that her husband is the one who was found with the infertility problem and not her. Society, government and all stakeholders need to continue to join hands with Merck in their campaign to encourage the acceptance people live with infertility because the stigma associated with infertility puts pressure on them to a point where they do crazy and criminal things. We need to know that it's a shared responsibility, not just for the couple but for the society too,” Joyce Lay added.
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"Jackline Mwende's story is the reason all people should appreciate ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative. No sane person should torture a woman for failing to produce children. Men should not think that their failure to be a biological father is due to women's infertility. Why torture a fellow human being and inflict such permanent bodily harm for a fault that could be yours? No amount of justice in the courts of law will bring back Mwende’s arms. Justice will only prevail if Mwende’s case marks a turning point in society that appreciates one fact- "that women are women irrespective of their ability to bear children. They need to be respected," emphasized Hon. Sarah Opendi, Uganda Minister of State of Health and Uganda ambassador of Merck more than a Mother
"This terrible violence Mwende suffered ny5tghas emphasized the significance of ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative for Africa. ‘Merck More than a Mother’ will continue working closely with partners to create a culture shift and to empower infertile women economically and socially through "Empowering Berna" Project to ensure no other woman in Africa should ever go through such violence, humiliation or misery again," Rasha Kelej emphasized.
About “Merck more than a Mother” initiative:
In many cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. Infertility can transform from an acute, private distress into a harsh public stigma with complex and devastating consequences. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This may result in divorce or physical and psychological violence.
“Merck More than a Mother” initiative aims to define interventions to reduce the stigma and social suffering of infertile women, empower them and raise awareness about male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples across the continent.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility. For instance, poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, consequences of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) or child marriage, exposure to smoking, leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants can lead to infertility.
About “Empowering Berna” Project
“It is very important to empower infertile women through improving access to awareness, health and change of mindset so they can bear children as part of their human rights. In case they can no longer be treated, ‘Empowering Berna’ project will contribute towards empowering and training them to establish their own small business so that they can be independent and re-build their own lives, a woman is more than a mother, ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative will prove this every day.” Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare.