Rasha Kelej Merck’s Chief Social Officer: I am proud to work for Merck

Dr. Rasha Kelej Chief social Officer Merck at the “Merck more than a Mother” launch in Nigeria

Merck takes Corporate Social Responsibility- CSR very seriously, they have demonstrated a long term commitment to Africa’s social and economic development, they have engaged with communities to understand the challenges and explore solutions and develop the appropriate programs with appropriate engagement of local stakeholders and partners.

We spoke with Dr. Rasha Kelej; the Chief Social Officer of Merck. An African woman and pharmacist from Egypt, she moves everywhere in Africa, meeting with women and girls in villages, students at Universities as well as members of parliament ministers and First Ladies; going seven layers beneath any problem, digging for meaning, understanding and different perspective of Africa’s challenges, asking too many questions to be able to touch people lives and leave an impact.

(L-R) Hon. Dr. Lanre Tejuoso Chairman of the Senate Nigeria, Dr. Rasha Kelej Chief Social Officer of Merck , Hon. Joyce Lay Member of Parliament Kenya

She won the award of women empowerment recently in Spain as a recognition of Merck More than a mother campaign development and implementation in Africa as well as empowering women in the fields of research and healthcare

She explained during a “Merck more than a Mother” recent event in Abidjan, “I am extremely proud to work for Merck, the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company which established in 1668. Throughout all these generation CSR is part of Merck’s DNA. Merck empowered me and my team to dedicate our time and resources for only one objective, to add a concrete and measurable value to societies and scientific community to improve access to innovative and equitable healthcare solutions for Africa and developing countries” said Dr. Kelej, Chief Social Officer Merck.

I learnt a lot from working closely with Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, the chairman of the Executive Board and The Family Board of Merck, who has a great passion for Africa, and dedicates a large part of his personal time to visit African countries to contribute to all CSR programs to fulfil his commitment to build Healthcare capacity and empower youth and women in the field of Healthcare and research. He is been awarded with “HE for She” for Women Empowerment Award.

I am also very happy to work closely with Dr. Belen Garijo, CEO of Merck healthcare, my role model, she is a strong, smart, elegant and successful woman. She inspires me and inspire many other women. She also very dedicated to empower women and advocate for gender equality across the globe.

We asked Rasha Kelej about the secret of her success, she answered:

“The greatest enemy of success is the fear of failure, so you do not try to do something new. I always explore my strengths within me and take risks and start new things. I never compare myself to others, I only compare what I done; not with what others done, but with what I should or could have done.

“I also believe in being there by myself, all my programs demand me to be there with them, with people, with communities, it is very important to talk to people who affected by the problems and who would benefit from solutions. I will do this all the time; I will never give up on them.” Dr. Rasha confirmed.

Merck has developed a lot of initiatives under the umbrella of Merck Capacity Advancement Program- CAP. In every initiative Merck gives back to society and contribute to the African Development hence to Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs. One of them we heard about recently, the UNESCO-MERCK Africa Research Summit.

Merck, UNESCO and African Union marked another milestone to empower Women and Girls in the field of research and healthcare to improve women health, and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Merck announced five winners from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia  for  ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’ and four winners from Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe for  ‘Best Young African Researchers Award’ during the recently held 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS)  in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Merck continues to empower young researchers which raises the level of scientific research in Africa and encourages in particular young women researchers to pursue their dreams, work for improving access to health solutions and make a difference in the continent. Moreover, Merck offers my support to motivate female researchers & healthcare providers and recognizes their excellent contribution to fields where they are underrepresented.”

“Merck will provide MARS award winners with training opportunities to advance their research to the international standard. They will also be appointed as ambassadors of” MERCK STEM Program for Girls” in their own countries through several future initiatives will be announced in 2017” explained Rasha Kelej Chief Social Officer, Merck.

Prof. Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Minister of Health and  Minister of Science and Technology of Ethiopia, Dr. Rasha Kelej with MARS award winners.

Another talked about initiative is the Merck Cancer Access Program, where Merck commits to improve Access to Cancer Care through two initiatives: the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program, and Merck more than a Patient initiative.

In 2016, Merck has announced the first “Africa Medical Oncology Fellowship Program” for Sub-Saharan African countries in partnership with University of Nairobi, Kenya and Tata Memorial Hospital, India.

“We are committed to improve patient’s access to care all over the world. In Africa, where the number of oncologists is very limited, this starts by building additional medical capacity to increase the number of qualified oncologists across the continent.”


Candidates from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Botswana and South Africa were provided by one year or two year medical oncology fellowship program, “We’d like to enroll more candidates and engage other countries such as Zambia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Liberia and Namibia. We firmly believe this is very important step to improve access to cancer care in Africa.” emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Watch the experience of the first ywo candidates from Tanzania and Ghana in TMC iIndia


“Merck more than a Patient” initiative:


https://youtu.be/-x1vt9CWZDA Watch the story of three women cancer survivors, after meeting “Merck More than a Patient”, they are discussing the myth and social stigma of cancer in Africa as part of the challenges to cancer care in the continent.

This initiative aims to empower women cancer survivors in Africa through access to awareness, health and economic empowerment through helping them to establish their own small business so that they can lead independent and productive lives. Merck will also help raising awareness about Cancer and tackling myths and stigma associated with the disease, “I believe we can together empower our communities to access accurate cancer information, which should result in behavior change coupled with adoption of health life style for cancer prevention, early detection and care.  Merck is providing awareness videos about Cancer early detection and prevention in local languages on our social media” Kelej added.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET5tExnoLqU Watch Benda Kithaka, Co-Founder and Chairperson of “Women for Cancer” as she talks about cancer myths and misconceptions, the need to demystify it to reduce the stigma associated with it and the importance of empowering women cancer survivors.

The “Merck more than a Mother” initiative proves Merck’s commitment to empower infertile women across the continent through access to information, health and change of mind-set.

“In some 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 always results in divorce or physical and psychological violence.” Dr.Rasha Kelej explained.

“Merck more than a Mother” will  support governments to define policies to improve access to regulated , safe and effective fertility care and address the need for interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples. It will also provide practical training for embryologists to build fertility care capacity in Africa.

Minister of women Affairs C.A.R. , Rasha Kelej Merck CSO and Kenya MP together with Infertile women who are sharing their experience with social suffering . In Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

Health Facts associated with Infertility in Africa and developing countries:

According to WHO data more than 180 million couples in developing countries (which one in every four couples) suffer from primary or secondary infertility. In sub-Saharan Africa, untreated genital infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia  may be the cause of up to 85% of infertility among women seeking infertility care, compared to 33% worldwide which emphasizing the importance of prevention programs in Africa. Hence prevention awareness is very important.