Prominent African leaders championing the fight against infertility stigmatization
By Hawa Dolley
Many infertile women and men in Africa are gradually coming to the realization that infertility is a shared problem of both male and female, unlike the past where most of the burden purely rested on the woman.
Today, several males, including prominent leaders in Africa, are championing the cause to raise awareness on infertility, breaking the stigma as well as taking on initiatives to support and encourage the works of charity organizations such as the Merck Foundation which continues to endeavor to put a smile on the faces of several people struggling with infertility.
Among several programs being initiated by Merck Foundation to reshape the narrative on infertility through a new dimension of awareness, which includes the formulation of dramas, cultural and arts programs as well as songs, it seems like the involvement of prominent individuals has added great traction to the campaign, thereby making the fight against infertility stigmatization more effective and relevant.
Recently, as a way of making his own contribution towards breaking the stigma of infertility in the African society, the President of the Republic of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, elevated the campaign through the melody of his voice, singing passionately a glorious song in support of Merck Foundation’s “More Than a Mother” campaign.
Merck More than a Mother campaign is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mindsets.
The campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to education, regulate safe and effective fertility care, defining further interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raise awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility.
In the song, by the Liberian leader, who is also “Feminist-In- Chief” of the Republic of Liberia, President Weah reminded men “to support their women and stop the blame game.”
Some African traditions, according to research conducted on infertility, rest the burden of childbearing entirely on women, such act is in direct disregard to known facts that even men can be infertile.
One World Health Organization (WHO) report said, infertility programs are, especially critical in sub-Saharan Africa. While the region has some of the highest birth rates in the world, the WHO said, it also has one of the highest rate of infertility globally.
This report entails that the fight against infertility as well as breaking stigma against infertile people must be taken to a new height as a way of sending a resounding message with resultant impacts.
This, however, has been the motive of the master symphony crafted by the Liberian leader. He intoned that, men should check themselves, consciously reminding them that “men too can be affected by infertility,” and that they should stop blaming women even if they cannot have a child, knowing that women are “More Than a Mother.”
In many cultures, Weah pinpointed that childless women suffer from ‘discrimination’, adding: “A woman should be loved and cared for, a woman should be respected and get all the benefits from marriage regardless of having children or not,” he emphasized.
President Weah noted that society should not frown on a woman who doesn’t have a child but rather celebrate her and stop abusing her, while encouraging men to be supportive of their women who cannot have children and stop abusing them physically and emotionally.
“Women are more than a mother,” he reminds all and sundry, stating that even if a woman is unable to give birth to a child, she can become anything else, even a lawyer or a doctor.
Around the world, the WHO further said, more than 180 million couples face infertility. In the poorest countries, it says, the 12-month infertility prevention rate- failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex ranges from 6.9 to 9.3 percent.
The fight against infertility and stigmatization can be won regardless of the grim projections as shown by several statistics, however, support must be given to movements and campaigns which are geared towards breaking stigma of infertility as well as those educating people on the health condition.
World leaders and prominent individuals on the global scene must rally around charity organizations like the Merck Foundation to give infertile people the hope of living a comfortable life beyond childbearing.