Written by Enock Balakasi
A German based organization called Merck Foundation in collaboration with Beautify Malawi (BEAM) trained about 100 journalists to help break the silence associated with infertility issues in the country.
Speaking during official opening of the one day health media training on Wednesday in Lilongwe First Lady Professor Getrude Mutharika urged journalists to help eradicate stigma around infertility and its resultant domestic violence in Malawi and the rest of Africa.
Mutharika said the Malawi media has ably contributed to the development of the country through reporting on health issues such as maternal health, sexual reproductive health, malaria, cancer and other diseases.
The initiative is aimed at empowering men and women with infertility issues through the access to information, education, health and mind-set change.
She said Merck More Than a Mother initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health and by changing mind-sets.
“Information is Power. Information gives a person the opportunity to change their minds and situation. The media, which provides most of that information, therefore has power to negatively or positively influence the way people are viewed or behave.
“There is a health condition that is kept under wraps but is threatening to disrupt families and our communities. This condition is infertility. This is the reason that prompted me to consult Merck media to roll out the process beginning to demystify the problem of infertility,” she said.
According to Mutharika, who is ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, Infertility is regarded as a taboo in Malawi, where people would rather suffer in silence without talking about it.
She said couples divorce each other, leaving women and children in a dire situation with no stable income for decent lives and that infertility in some cases also fuels gender based violence, mostly against women which needs to stop.
“Infertility is a gender issue because it wears a woman’s face in Malawi, where everybody believes that if a couple is failing to have a child, it is the woman who has the problem or is infertile. For this reason, the woman is shamed and suffers stigma. This therefore calls for critical engagement and cultivating a good working relationship with the media to sensitize the community,” she added.
Mutharika commended Merck Foundation through the More than a Mother Initiative which has come in to help the country address the issue of infertility.
In her remarks , Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation and President of Merck more than a Mother, Dr. Rasha Kelej said the media plays an important role in sensitizing the society and can help in breaking the stigma around infertility.
She said the program will focus on the international standards and media ethics for reporting sensitive issues like infertility and other health issues in Africa.
“The training will benefit journalists in understanding the infertility issues in African communities and to learn the best media practices to cover such issues,” said Kelej.
She said there is need for more awareness in the communities to prevent 85 percent of infertility cases in Africa.
“The training program is a part of ‘Merck More than a Mother’ community awareness Program and was organized for the first time in Malawi for local media representatives.
“Media plays an important role is sensitizing the society. It can help in breaking the stigma around infertility. I am delighted to initiate this important training session as I strongly believe that media plays a significant role to influence our society to create a cultural shift. It has the capacity and ability to break the stigma around infertility in the community.” Dr. Rasha Kelej added.“The Merck Health Media Training program focused on the international standards and media ethics for reporting sensitive issues like infertility in Africa. It was designed to benefit the journalists in understanding the infertility issues in African communities and to learn the best media practices to cover such issues” added Dr. Rasha Kelej.
Merck Foundation also announced Call for Application for “Merck More than a Mother” ‘Media Recognition Awards’ for Malawi and rest of Africa. The “Merck More than a Mother” ‘Media Recognition Awards’ were launched in 2017 with the aim to emphasize the role of media in enhancing the public engagement and understanding of infertility stigma and the need to change its social perception in African communities.
The applications are invited by media professionals to showcase their work to raise awareness about infertility prevention and breaking infertility stigma in Guinea and rest of Africa.