Very little is known about her in the West or on the internet, but in Africa, Dr. Rasha Kelej who goes by the title “CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck more than a Mother” is now a ‘household name’ who meets African leaders and their partners, and ministers and everything in-between, and promises to provide many charity works.
Public records simply say Kelej was born in February 1972 and holds a degree in Pharmacy from Alexandria University as well as an MBA from Robert Gordon University, Scotland, on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) integration with Business Strategy.
They also say she’s the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Merck Foundation and the former Chief Social Officer (CSO) and Vice President of Merck Healthcare.
Regardless of that little experience and scanty resume, in Africa, she’s met many heads of state and their partners as well as many government ministers, and has appointed many of the First Ladies as Ambassadors.
The First Ladies of Senegal and Zimbabwe along with a host of others have received the ‘coveted’ ambassadorial appointments.
In her latest appointment of the First Lady of Zimbabwe as an Ambassador of Merck Foundation, Rasha Kelej said: “It is an honor to appoint the First lady of Zimbabwe, H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, the Ambassador of Merck more than a Mother. After our committee meeting in March 2019 at Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) Summit, our programs have started in partnership with Zimbabwe government and we have already enrolled many doctors to our specialty training programs for Two Year Oncology Master and Fellowship, One Year Online Diabetes Diploma and Fertility Specialist Training. Moreover, we are conducing today, the first health media training in Zimbabwe to educate media how to break the stigma of infertility through their valuable work”.
Her Foundation works with African public relations group APO to reach African journalists, and spread her works around the internet and the media landscape on the continent.
Officially, she says, she’s focusing on African mothers and their health, and she repeatedly talks about helping African women deal with infertility, a good area to curry sympathy and get access to the First Ladies and their husbands, the Presidents of African countries and their Ministers of Health.
In her latest outing in Africa, she’s seen leading training for journalists in Zimbabwe and meeting with the First Lady Auxillia Nnangagwa along with the ministers of health and information to reportedly “break the stigma around infertility in Zimbabwe and rest of Africa”.
The training program is a part of ‘Merck More than a Mother’ community awareness Program and was organized for the first time in Zimbabwe for local media representatives and media students.
Merck Foundation refers to itself as the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA, a German multinational pharmaceutical, chemical and life sciences company headquartered in Darmstadt, with around 50,000 employees in around 70 countries.
Merck was founded in 1668 and is the world’s oldest operating chemical and pharmaceutical company, as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Regardless, Kelej fast rise in Africa is surprising.
“I do not know how she’s pulling this off from her little experience to having access to African leaders, their partners and their cabinet members,” worried one senior government official from Kenya who asked not to be identified for this report.
“Suddenly, she has access to a pile of information, access to all our leaders and partners. I do not know what’s going on. I am not saying she’s a foreign agent of the West, but something does not sit right with all of this,” the official added.
In Zimbabwe, like elsewhere, she was received by the First lady and welcomed by her with praises.
“We welcome this important initiative of Merck Foundation in our country. Media, if guided properly can bring about a huge change in the current scenario where women solely blamed for infertility. I urge or media partners to work together for this cause to make a difference,” Auxillia Nnangagwa said.
Rasha Kelej responded: “I am delighted to initiate this important training 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”
The training was addressed by the First Lady of Zimbabwe, stalwarts of media industry, including international faculty and infertility experts.
In a statement broadcast by APO, it was said the training provided “a great opportunity for the journalists to meet the experts and also to network with each other and work as a unit to eradicate the stigma around infertility in Zimbabwe and rest of Africa. It was attended by journalists working for Print, TV, Radio and Online media and journalism students”.
“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 Zimbabwe 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 Zimbabwe and rest of Africa.
This story would be updated.