Addressing the stigma surrounding infertility

A total of 200 reporters from 17 African nations converged on the Kenyan capital of Nairobi this week for a health media workshop.

Organised by the Merck Foundation*, the training centred around infertility and the media’s responsibility to report on it in an informed and sensitive manner.

The theme for the training, which took place on Tuesday, was: ‘The Role of Media to break stigma around infertility and infertile women in Africa.’

In her opening remarks, the foundation’s CEO, Dr Rasha Kelej stressed that the media has a duty to sensitise the communities they exist in, noting they have the power to instigate a ‘culture shift’.

She noted that in many African countries, childless women still suffer discrimination and are often ostracised.

“The difficulty associated with infertility is that it can transform from acute, private distress into harsh public stigma with complex and devastating consequences,” she highlighted, adding the media can play a crucial role in changing the current perception surrounding infertility, which makes it difficult for people with the condition to come out and talk about it.

“This is a condition that can be prevented and cured. People are more than mothers and fathers, with or without kids they still add value in our societies,” continued the 46-year-old, who boasts 22 years of experience in International Pharmaceutical Industry.

Dr Kelej explained the foundation run an initiative called ‘Merck More than a mother’ which seeks to de-stigmatize infertility on all levels.

The campaign, of which Dr Kelej is the President, strives to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health and by changing mind-sets.

Addressing the stigma surrounding infertility

PROUD: Award winners and panelists

The initiative further looks to address the challenges associated with resource constrained settings like prevention of infertility, education, IVF regulations among other things.

However, Dr Kelej pointed out that accessible infertility treatment can only be successfully introduced in developing countries if socio-cultural, economic essentials and needed skills are fulfilled with the support of government.

For his part, Kenya Fertility Society Chairman, Dr Koihi Kamau warned that untreated infections can lead to infertility in both genders.

“Both men and women should practice safe sex and avoid risky behaviours that can lead to STIs.

“Men should acknowledge and openly discuss their infertility issues and strive for a team approach to family building with their partners. A culture shift is needed to progress towards shared fertility responsibility,” said Dr Kamau, who revealed male infertility is predominantly caused by previous genitourinary tract infections.

Prior to the training, Media Recognition Awards were held for journalists who reported stories that tell how infertile women have suffered and been rejected for their condition.

*Formed in 2017, the Merck Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology.