Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets with Civil Society Representatives from Canada, Burundi, Bhutan and Belarus - African Business Magazine
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets with Civil Society Representatives from Canada, Burundi, Bhutan and Belarus

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets with Civil Society Representatives from Canada, Burundi, Bhutan and Belarus

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon met with representatives of non-governmental organizations and a national human rights institution to receive information on the situation of women in Canada, Burundi, Bhutan and Belarus, whose reports will be considered during the first week of the session.

Civil society organizations welcomed the commitment of Canada to gender equality and the steps taken since the 2015 general elections. Canada had fallen from the first to the twenty-fifth place on the United Nations Gender Equality Index since 1995, they said, and warned that women’s structural inequality could not be adequately addressed by piecemeal improvements to a few laws and programmes. A comprehensive national response was needed, which would take an intersectional approach and recognize the different experiences of inequality.
In Burundi, the customary law routinely discriminated against women in relation to land and inheritance rights, said the non-governmental organizations, which urged the Committee to encourage Burundi to enact a national Succession Act to protect the equal inheritance rights of women and nullify those aspects of the customary law which discriminated against women, and to put in place safeguards to secure land tenure rights of women through the registration of land procedure.
Representatives of non-governmental organizations stressed that Bhutan continued to make significant progress in addressing all forms of discrimination against women, but gaps remained in the delivery mechanisms translating polices into action. The allocation of human and financial resources had to be enhanced so that measureable progress would be made in levelling the playing field.  Other issues of concern were the situation of rural women, criminalization of abortion, high rates of suicide of women, domestic violence, and the poor representation of women in political and public life.
Violence against socially or politically active women by mostly male State officials was an issue of particular concern in Belarus. The State violence –  beatings, sexual assault, involuntary termination of women’s parental rights, illegal and forced placement in mental institutions, indirect pushing to suicide, and deportation from Belarus – were used to punish and silence, to reduce women’s social activity, prevent them from political participation, and produce obedient female citizens. 
Speaking during the discussion were representatives from the Women’s Association of Canada, Chair of Indigenous Governance and Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, BC CEDAW Group: Single Mothers Alliance of British Colombia, and Canada Without Poverty; Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Action Aid who spoke on Burundi; Tarayana Foundation and RENEW Organization from Bhutan; and the Coalition for Belarusian non-governmental organizations with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland, International Centre of Civil Initiatives “Our House”, Anti-discrimination Center “Memorial”  and the “Identity and Law” Initiative Group with the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Canadian Human Rights Commission spoke via an audio link.
Live webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at
The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Tuesday, 25 October, at 10 a.m, when it will consider the combined eighth and ninth periodic reports of Canada (CEDAW/C/CAN/8-9).
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations


Women’s Association of Canada said that decades of legislative changes and budget cuts to social programmes and benefits meant that women and girls in Canada were denied their rights under the Convention on a daily basis. Since 1995, Canada had fallen from the first to the twenty-fifth place on the United Nations Gender Equality Index, which meant that there was much to do and undo.  Women’s structural inequality would not be adequately addressed by piecemeal improvements to a few laws and programmes. Canada needed a comprehensive national response that addressed all forms of discrimination against women and girls, which had to take an intersectional approach and recognize the different experience of inequality by First Nations, Inuit, Métis, racialized, disabled, refugee, immigrant, transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and single parent women and girls.
Chair of Indigenous Governance and Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action took up the issue of discrimination and women’s access to justice, saying that the Federal Government did not consistently require high-quality gender-based or human rights analysis of laws, policies and processes. Despite commitments to end sex discrimination in the Indian Act by restoring status to Indigenous women and their descendants, piecemeal amendments to the Act had not succeeded in restoring status to all those affected. Women faced multiple barriers in accessing justice to enforce their legal rights. Women were the main users of civil legal aid, but the financial support for civil legal aid had dropped dramatically since the 1990s, and legal aid was only available to women living well below poverty line, thus forcing many women to represent themselves in complex family law matters.
BC CEDAW Group: Single Mothers Alliance of BC called the Committee’s attention to financial, administrative and geographic barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services. Twenty-four percent of people in Canada lacked prescription drug coverage, and only 17 per cent of the hospitals provided abortion services.
Canada Without Poverty said that Canadian women continued to be paid less than their male counterparts and that Canadian gender wage gap was twice the global average. Patterns of job segregation by sex remained unchanged, with women concentrated in traditionally female and lower-paying jobs. More than 70 per cent of women with children were in paid workforce, and yet regulated childcare spaces were available for only 24.9 per cent of the children.
Native Women’s Association of Canada stated that Canada had to rethink and overhaul its approach to reaching gender equality and recognize and act upon the many ways in which Indigenous, racialized, disabled, refugee, immigrant, single parent, transgender, lesbian, and bisexual women were discriminated against.    


Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Action Aid said that the customary law routinely discriminated against women in relation to land and inheritance rights. The legislation in Burundi still contained some outmoded laws, while some matters, such inheritance, had not been legislated yet. On issues of land and property, remedies available to women were inadequate, and judges were not trained to protect women’s rights. Burundi should enact a national Succession Act to protect the equal inheritance rights of women and nullify those aspects of the customary law which discriminated against women, and put in place safeguards to secure land tenure rights of women through the registration of land procedure.

Tarayana Foundation stated that Bhutan continued to make significant progress in addressing all forms of discrimination against women, including through the adoption of several key policy instruments to help improve substantive equality. However, gaps remained in the delivery mechanisms translating those polices into action on the ground, while allocation of human and financial resources ought to be enhanced so that measureable progress was made in levelling the playing field.  Gender-neutral policies did not acknowledge the differences between the sexes nor did they appreciate their different needs. There was a need for better social security for women in rural areas in particular, as they were often affected by climate change-related natural disasters that increased their vulnerability in the absence of a steady income. Women’s representation in the political sphere was poor and at present there were only six female parliamentarians – two out of 25 in the Upper House and four out of 47 in the Lower House.
RENEW Organization called the attention to the fact that abortion was still illegal in Bhutan, forcing many women and girls to use unsafe illegal abortion services. Another issue of concern was the high rate of suicide of women, due to mental health issues, substance abuse, and domestic violence. The use of alcohol was culturally accepted and it amplified the rates of domestic violence.  he Penal Code did not have severe punishment for perpetrators of domestic violence and did not prescribe counselling for perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. RENEW Organization had set up the first shelter for victims of domestic violence in Bhutan. Prostitution, human trafficking and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues were relatively new, for which development of sensitive approaches was needed.
Coalition of Belarusian non-governmental organizations with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland  said that the anti-discrimination laws in Belarus were still limited in scope, declarative and not supported by efficient implementation mechanisms. Belarus had failed to create an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles not it had any other special administrative body vested with the power to consider complaints about human rights violations lodged by women. There was no effective mechanism of protection of the rights of girls and women, especially those vulnerable groups, such as women with disabilities, Muslim women, Roma women, women kept in temporary isolation facilities and pre-trial detention centres.
International Centre of Civil Initiatives “Our House” noted that socially active women often experienced violence from mostly male State officials, the purpose of which was to manipulate, punish or discipline women who were vocal in protecting their rights or the rights of their children. The purpose of the violence was also to reduce women’s social activity, prevent them from political participation, and produce obedient female citizens. The forms of the State violence against socially and politically active women included beating and or threats of sexual assault, involuntary termination of women’s parental rights or threats to do so, illegal and forced placement in mental institutions, and deportation from Belarus.
Anti-discrimination Centre “Memorial” spoke about the situation of families “at social risk”, whose children could be taken away. The decision on declaring a family “at social risk” was made by a commission, without court involvement. The amount of unjustified decisions in recent years had increased enormously. The criteria were very broad and the members of the commission frequently used their powers to exact revenge on family or a woman, or to threaten, intimidate and manipulate, and was often used against activist mothers, those who criticised teachers, suffered from domestic violence and called the police, or failed to pay for a kinder garden.
“Identity and Law” Initiative Group and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association stated that lesbian and bisexual women and transgender persons were among the most stigmatized social groups in Belarus, who faced discrimination and violence in their day-to-day life.  A law prohibiting dissemination of information that “discredited the family and marriage-family relations”, adopted this year, opened the path to abuse and harassment targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender defenders, and also targeting lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and their families.
Questions by Committee Members

An Expert noted with satisfaction that Canada had decided to open a public inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women, and asked whether non-governmental organizations were pleased with its terms of reference, and the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations by the Government of Canada. What was the opinion of the civil society of the situation of cyber bullying in the country?
It was unacceptable that women involved in prostitution in Belarus were criminalized. Experts asked about measures to address the demand side. Was there a chance for a progress in the near future in the area of registration, operation and funding of non-governmental organizations? Was there a review system in place for decisions made by commissions on declaring families “at social risk” which might lead to separation of children from the families?
An Expert asked about the extent of collaboration of the Government of Burundi with non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the report, the situation with sexual violence in the country post-April 2016, and the systematic clampdown on women human rights defenders. Question was also asked on the reactions to the stated intention of Burundi to withdraw from the International Criminal Court and whether it was possible to influence the Government to change the decision. What was the impact of the corruption on the capacity of the judiciary to conduct independent investigations, particularly in cases involving women?  Another Expert asked about the proportion of women living under the customary law in personal and family issues, and which issues should be raised with the Government in order to improve the situation in customary law.
Committee Experts recognized the transitional phase in Bhutan and asked about the extent of engagement of civil society in the evaluation of impact of the national gender equality strategy, and in the preparation of the national gender equality plan. What was the status of the revision of school curricula, and the role of media therein?
Replies by Non-governmental Organizations

Representatives of organizations took the floor to respond to questions posed by the Committee on Canada and said that so far, less than half of the provinces and territories had declared their participation in the public inquiry into the murdered and missing indigenous women. The changes made to the terms of reference had taken all the meat off it: there was no human rights-based framework, no specific reference to the involvement of the police, and no independent review mechanism. That was of a significant concern to indigenous civil society organizations. The decision of the Government to open the public inquiry was welcomed, but it had not yet started, and there was no mechanism in place to ensure cooperation with non-governmental organizations. Prostitution was accompanied by violence, but was also an act of violence in itself, so the Nordic model of working towards abolition did promote gender equality, in particular for indigenous women. Cyber bulling of indigenous peoples by State officials was a regular occurrence, with negative, racist and derogatory comments being uttered by state officials, police, doctors, politicians. 
The non-governmental organizations from Burundi would provide responses to Experts’ questions in writing during the private meeting.

Representatives of the non-governmental organizations from Bhutan said that the number of non-governmental organizations registered had grown to 49, and there were 15 more in the pipeline, so the civil society community was growing. The process of consultation on the national plan of action on gender equality was very thorough; the plans were good, but the problem was resource allocation and the implementation. 
In Belarus, hundreds of women had been arrested during the big events such as the international hockey championship, under the suspicion that they might be involved in prostitution, and had been administratively detained for thirty days, without any proof. The commission was making its decisions very fast; it was made up of teachers, social workers and others, and children were removed from the family as soon as the decision was made. Parents could file a complaint with the court, but it would take six months or even a year before the court’s decision was made; a decision by the court would not prevent the commission to make a new decision and take the child again.  Discrimination issues seldom rose in criminal and administrative court proceedings. It was still a criminal liability for organizations to be unregistered, and many organizations, particularly those working on discrimination issues, could not register because of the law in force.
Dialogue with national human rights institutions
Canadian Human Rights Commission, via audio link, said that the Commission was a national human rights institution accredited with an A Status under the Paris Principles, and had a broad mandate to protect and promote human rights, including receiving complaints and representing the public interest in mediation and litigation. The Commission was also monitoring the implementation of the law and measures to ensure the equality in work place for the four designated key groups: women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and members of invisible minorities. One specific area of concern was the implementation of the Employment Equity Act, and particularly the fact that the participation of women in the workplace, and the equality they enjoyed had not improved since the passage of the Act in the 1990s, particularly in the private sector. The Committee should recommend to Canada to continue taking steps to promote equality in the workplace for women, particularly in management and decision-making posts. 
Another area of concern was the fact that the current Indian classification system continued to discriminate against women, as it recognized lineage by male line only. Canada should take all necessary steps to ensure that no residual discrimination remained in the Indian registration system. Indigenous women represented 30 per cent of the inmate population in the federal correctional institutions, despite the fact that indigenous peoples represented four per cent of the country’s population.  The federal correction system should be fully examined with the view of developing a concrete strategy to address that issue.  Indigenous women were also over-represented in the segregation system, which was the Canadian system of solitary confinement, and the Committee should recommend Canada to stop using segregation to manage inmates with mental health problems. 
A Committee Expert asked the Commission to evaluate the legislative proposal to amend the Indian Act and whether it would remove residual discrimination from the system. Responding, a representative of the Commission said that the legislative amendment had not yet been made publicly available, and the Commission could not comment now, but would be happy to do so in the future.     
Asked how the Commission coordinated its work at the federal and provincial levels, the representative explained that all provinces and territories had the Human Rights Code similar to the Canadian to the Human Rights Act, and most had Human Rights Commission which had similar mandates; the Canadian Commission was a member of an umbrella organizations of Human Rights Commissions which worked together on various issues, facilitating coordination and discussing issues of jurisdiction. The Government should take additional steps to ensure coordination across federal jurisdictions.
In response to the Expert’s question concerning accountability of Canada as a State Party, for example in the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations at the local level, the representative of the Canada Human Rights Commission said that the Commission monitored the compliance of Canada with the recommendations.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

Media files
United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
Download logo

Rate this article

Author Thumbnail
Written by African Business Magazine

African Business and its award-winning team is widely respected for its editorial excellence. We provide the all important tools enabling you to maintain a critical edge in a continent that is changing the world. Our special reports profile a wide range of sectors and industries including Energy, Oil and Gas, Aviation, Agriculture to name but a few.

Related Posts

  • U.S. Condemns Terror Attack in Al-Arish

    The U.S. Embassy condemns the attack in Al-Arish today that killed several Egyptian police officers and wounded many others, including civilians. These officers gave their lives in the line of duty helping protect their fellow citizens. We express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased and wish the wounded a speedy recovery. The Embassy stands with Egypt and the Egyptian people as they build a stable, secure, and prosperous country for all citizens.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of U.S. Embassy – Cairo.

    Media files
    U.S. Embassy - Cairo
    Download logo

  • A world-class wheelchair basketball coach to train the team of South Sudan

    At the invitation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jess Markt, a wheelchair basketball coach for people with disabilities is coming from the United States, and will arrive in Juba on January 10, 2017 to coach players, train coaches, classifiers and referees from Juba and Yirol.  

    Jess began playing wheelchair basketball at the age of 19 after suffering a spinal cord injury. He has been coaching wheelchair basketball since 2009, and has trained teams in Afghanistan, India, Palestine, Cambodia and in his home state of Colorado.

    “We are excited that Jess will coach the South Sudan team. They are very motivated and we hope that this training will enable them to participate in international competitions in future” says Venkatakannan Packirisamy, ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Project manager in South Sudan.

    In South Sudan the ICRC supports three physical rehabilitation centers that provide mobility devices and therapy. Together with the South Sudan Wheelchair Basketball Association (SSWBA) it organizes weekly wheelchair basketball games to promote social inclusion for people with disabilities. 

    Distributed by APO on behalf of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

    Media files
    International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
    Download logo

  • Finalists for the Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF) Entrepreneurship Award 2017 announced

    Six African SMEs have been nominated as finalists for the AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2017, supported by the Rabobank Foundation. Out of the 51 projects from around the continent and following a few rounds of selection, the jury has selected these innovative projects from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania for their social, economic and ecological impact, and their potential for growth and job creation nationally and regionally. The winner will be announced during the Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF) 2017 (, which will be held in Nairobi from 13-16 February. 

    Official Finalists for the AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2017:

    • Aybar Engineering (Ethiopia) – The company has developed the “Aybar BBM”, a technology that prevents excess water from suffocating crops and stores it for later use. There is no other similar technology in the market.  
    • R n G Company limited (Kenya) – The company sells packaged Rhizo-fix (groundnut inoculum), a biofertilizer that ensures a more efficient groundnut production. It also collects the groundnuts from local farmers to produce affordable cooking oil.
    • EuroFresh Exotics (Kenya) – The company produces and exports fresh fruits and vegetables using innovative farming techniques. They also organise capacity building trainings for smallholder farmers.
    • First Atlantic Semiconductors & Microelectronics (Nigeria) – This company has developed the “Zenvus”, an intelligent solution to collect soil data using a system of electronic sensors. Its mission is improve farming productivity.
    • Kimolo Super rice (Tanzania) – The company is specialized in processing and marketing branded rice and sunflower oil. The project is environmentally friendly since smallholder farmers produce paddy using water run-off from nearby hills.
    • Eco Act (Tanzania) – The company was established to address the challenges of urban waste management, plastic pollution, deforestation and climate change. They recycle and transform post-consumer waste plastic into durable and environmentally friendly plastic lumber.

    The AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2017 aims to provide African-based innovative SMEs with support to grow their businesses. The six finalists will receive a free accreditation to join the AFIF 2017 full programme ( (conferences, trainings, B2B meetings and networking opportunities). The award winner will receive cash prize and one year of national and international media promotion.

    “We are delighted to announce the finalists for the AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2017 after a really difficult selection process. The innovation and creativity of African-based SMEs makes our job more difficult every year. We look forward to welcoming these and many more entrepreneurs at the AFIF 2017 in Nairobi” says Inês Bastos, EMRC ( Senior Project Manager.

    “I am now internationally known,” says Lazaro Mwakipesile (Raphael Group, Tanzania), winner of the AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2015. He adds: “I have travelled abroad four times this year to present our company. I expect to travel to the United States soon for a meeting with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”.

    The new edition of the Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF) will be held for the first time in the vibrant city of Nairobi, Kenya, hosted by the Strathmore University. In line with growing international trends, the AFIF will focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and access to finance in key sectors such as energy, water, ICT, health and agriculture. Delegates (SMEs managers, investors, entrepreneurs…) will come from across the world to participate in the AFIF 2017.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of EMRC.

    For further information about the AFIF Entrepreneurship Award 2017, visual material or interviews, please contact: 
    Aretha Francis 
    Media and Communications Manager  
    +32 2 626 1510

    Press Accreditation AFIF 2017:
    If you wish to cover the Africa Finance and Investment Forum 2017 (13-16 February 2017, Nairobi), please send the request to indicating Name, Country and Media Outlet by 23 January.

    Social Media – Follow us on: 

    About EMRC:
    Established in 1992 in Brussels, EMRC ( is a non-governmental organisation composed of a network of entrepreneurs, financiers, consultants and officials based throughout the world. EMRC’s mission is to lead the private sector in Africa to sustainable economic development and to drive regional change via partnerships. 

    About AFIF:
    The Africa Finance & Investment Forum (AFIF) ( is an annual business event organized in the framework of EMRC International’s activities, aimed at strengthening the private sector in Africa, encouraging entrepreneurship and attracting investment to the African continent. AFIF has a double objective: to strengthen the financial capacities of Africa’s private sector and to promote the creation of new partnerships through the encouragement of joint projects and trade relations North-South & South-South.

    Media files
    Download logo

  • USAID Support to ISTEP Program Gets People with Disabilities into the Workplace

    Over the past three years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) Association to help hundreds of people with disabilities to prepare for and enter the workforce. The Inclusive Training and Employment Program for and by persons with disabilities, also known as ISTEP, was designed to bolster Ethiopia’s efforts to support disability inclusive development.

    Because the inclusion of people with disabilities into the workforce is a relatively new concept in Ethiopia, ISTEP addressed the challenges faced by both the prospective employees and potential employers. To better prepare prospective employees with disabilities, ISTEP worked with 21 mainstream Technical Vocational Education and Training institutes (TVETs) and universities to improve their institutional capacity to provide skills development training for people with disabilities and trained approximately 750 instructors and support staff. Several of these institutions are now making campuses more accessible to people with disabilities. With support from ISTEP, nearly 300 people with disabilities were enrolled in TVETs and received skills training in areas including food preparation, making leather products, construction and metal works. ECDD also helped job seekers with disabilities to be stronger job candidates by helping them to prepare resumes and get ready for interviews.

    ISTEP also worked with the City Administrations in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, as well as the regional administrations in Tigray and SNNPR to create a more enabling environment for self and formal employment of people with disabilities. The program then worked with more than 70 companies to encourage them to take on people with disabilities for internships and paid positions and to train their human resources staff on best practices for integrating people with disabilities into their workplaces. So far, 88 TVET and university graduates with disabilities have secured formal jobs with employers like the Mosaic Hotel and Kedir Yasin Metal Work PLC, while another 168 have received valuable hands-on experience through internship placements in private and public sector workplaces. In addition, 93 TVET graduates with disabilities received support to start their own individual or joint businesses.

    “Before I began work, people did not want to even shake my hand, as if my blindness would pass on to them. But the situation changed after I got employed – there was a complete change of attitude. I feel my pride restored and feel respect in the community because of what I have achieved.’’ Lukas Zida, Counselor at Otana High School in Wolayta Sodo and an ISTEP beneficiary.

    Companies or organizations interested in partnering with ECDD can contact Mr. Retta Getachew, the Executive Director of ECDD at: ECDD, P.O Box, 1530 Code 1250, Addis Ababa, Tel: +251-11-4700014. Email:,

    Distributed by APO on behalf of U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    Media files
    U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Download logo

  • Latest News portal telling Africa’s story launches in Accra, Ghana

    A new pan-African news portal has been launched in Accra, Ghana.

    The portal will provide readers in Africa and beyond the latest and relevant news about Africa and the world in general.

    Readers of the site get at first hand, content on latest breaking news about Africa in all areas including entertainment, business and sports, with special focus on all the sub-regions on the continent.

    Founder and CEO of Africa Feeds Media, owners of the news portal, Isaac Kaledzi said the desire to tell the story of Africa the best way, motivated the establishment of the portal.

    He said in Accra that “I believe the story of Africa must be told and told better than we do currently. The African story must be told, not just the unfortunate happenings of war and hunger but the struggles and efforts by ordinary individuals to make this Continent great and that is exactly what we want to do with this news portal”.

    “African journalists work hard under challenging conditions and deserve an independent platform to share what they see and observe with the rest of the world in an unbiased and fair manner” Mr. Kaledzi added.

    Readers can access the portal via their mobile phones, tablets and desktops with 24/7 news services. An Africa feeds TV Channel is to be launched in the coming months to provide a 24/7 news TV content to Africans and the rest of the world at large.

    Mr. Kaledzi said “This is a huge project but we are confident that this is the way to go, we must provide a platform that enables the African to tell his or her own story and also for the African to know what is happening on his or her continent from the African perspective without perceived foreign influence”.

    AfricaFeeds(dot)com, a subsidiary of the Africa Feeds Media group is funded through commercial revenues and officially started operations on November 3, 2016.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of Africa Feeds.

    Media files
    Africa Feeds
    Download logo

  • Infertility is Not a Stigma: Merck More than a Mother championed by Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari continues its quest to empower more infertile women; this time in Nigeria

    Merck More than a Mother campaign launched in Nigeria was championed by the country’s first lady, Her Excellency Mrs. Aisha Buhari. The launch held in Abuja, Nigeria is in partnership with Senate Commission on Health; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and Future Assured organization.

    Merck More than a Mother continues its commitment to break stigma around infertility and empower infertile women by improving access to information, education, healthcare and change of culture and mind-set to de-stigmatize infertility.

    Her Excellency Mrs. Buhari pledged her support and the support of Nigerian Governors’ wives in the implementation of Merck More than a Mother’s activities in Nigeria focusing on eliminating infertility stigma and creating awareness and providing information and education on causes of infertility; facilitating access to healthcare; and economic and social empowerment of infertile women.

    The Nigerian women leaders also supported the empowering of infertile women who form a vulnerable part of the population. Infertile women in Nigeria and many other African countries who can no longer be treated have been empowered socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives through Empowering Berna initiative. Empowering Berna is part of Merck More than a Mother campaign.

    Helen Phillip, a Nigerian woman from the North shared her story of suffering from infertility stigma and expressed her gratitude to the support Merck more than a Mother provided her through establishing new business so that she can become an independent productive member in her community.

    Watch Nigeria’s infertile women sharing their stories of social suffering of infertility stigma and their transformation after the economic and social empowerment provided by Merck more than a Mother through Empowering Berna project:

    “In Nigeria we have been advocating for the end of harmful traditional practices including the stigmatization of women which is prevalent all over the country. Women have not been coming out openly because they are traumatized. With this campaign we will encourage them to speak out and we pledge our support and collaboration,” said Hon. Aisha Alhassan, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development. 

    Merck More than a Mother campaign is a great initiative to break the stigma around infertility and to empower an unprivileged category of women in Africa, women who suffer infertility. Infertile women have been neglected, mistreated and discriminated because they cannot bear a child, yet 50% of infertility is due to male factors. We can together improve access to education, information, awareness, health care and change of mind-set and culture to stop these women’s suffering,” said Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

    Prof. Isaac Adewole Hon. Minister of Health emphasized: “We are responsible for policy at the Ministry level and this is where we can make a difference in improving access to fertility care in Nigeria. We will work through training institutions we are responsible for to strengthen fertility management by making it a sub-specialty. We will also as a Ministry work with private sector, the Senate and the National Assembly to improve governance and quality of care to provide standards to protect infertile men and women seeking treatment.”

    Merck More than a Mother was first implemented in Kenya in 2015 followed by Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic and Nigeria.

    To read more about Merck More than a Mother, visit and

    Distributed by APO on behalf of For Africa Forever.

    Media Contact:
    Lucy Kaaya
    Chief Editor

    About the stigma of infertility in Africa:
    Jackeline Mwende, the recent victim of Infertility stigma tells us her story of suffering of Iterrible violence by her husband. Merck more than a Mother committed to work hard to ensure that no other woman would suffer the same way Jackeline did. Watch her story (

    Media files
    For Africa Forever
    Download logo

    Multimedia content

Join our mailing list

If you would like Independent, Informative and Invaluable news analysis on the African continent, delivered straight to your inbox, join our mailing list.

Help us deliver better content