Rasha Kelej an African woman dedicated to empower Women and Girls in STEM


Merck gives back to society through building research and cancer care capacity in Africa focusing on Empowering African women in Research and oncology field to improve women health.

Following the success of Merck Cancer Access Program to empower women in oncology field where they are underrepresented, comes another successful initiative for MERCK to empower African women in Research to improve women health.

After receiving his “African Alliances HE for SHE” award for women empowerment, Prof Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp has further achieved another commitment successfully to empower women in research to contribute to bridging the gap in gender equality in STEM in Africa.

UNESCO and Merck celebrate outstanding African Women Researchers for the First Time.

Kenya, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda, Ethiopia ranked the first five places in “Merck Africa Women Research Award on women health in Africa

Merck has announced five winners from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia  under the category of  ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’ and four winners from Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe for  ‘Best Young African Researchers Award’ during the recently held 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was the first time the ‘Best African Women Researchers Award’ was being launched.

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG congratulated the winners. He said: “Merck will work together with UNESCO to empower young researchers which raises the level of scientific research in Africa and encourages in particular young women researchers to pursue their dreams, work for improving access to health solutions and make a difference in the continent. Moreover, I am very pleased to offer my support to motivate female researchers & healthcare providers and recognizes their excellent contribution to fields where they are underrepresented”.

“Merck will provide the winners with training and mentorship opportunity to advance their capacity and helps bring them to the international standard. The winner of MARS Research awards will be appointed as Merck Ambassadors of Empowering Women and Girls in STEM in their own countries through several future initiatives will be announced in 2017” explained Rasha Kelej Chief Social Officer, Merck.

Meet the MARS award winners:

Merck Africa Research Summit Award Ceremony. Empowering Women and Young Researchers in Africa.

The awardees who are final PhD students and young investigators based at African research institutes and universities were selected based on the abstracts they submitted which were impressive and related to Infectious Diseases with the aim to improve Women Health, which was the focus of UNESCO-MARS 2016.

Watch this video to meet the UNESCO MARS award winners.

In her introductory remarks, Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare highlighted: “This is the second UNESCO-MARS we are holding after the successful one held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2015. Merck is committed to empowering women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) which will consequently contribute to improving the quality of research and science in Africa.                                             ”

“Merck’s support for Women in research and healthcare specially in the field of oncology where they are currently under-represented will help bridge the gender gap in STEM in Africa.  Merck have provided earlier this year Oncology fellowship program to African women doctors from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. Not only that we have also supported women cancer survivors through access to information, awareness about prevention and early detection, health and economic empowerment through Merck more than a patient initiative which focuses mainly on Cancer in women and its social misperception and stigma” Rasha Kelej added.

Watch Merck fellowship Program to empower women in Oncology Field.

“Moreover the 1st award winner Patricia Rantshabeng from Botswana for her study on cancer in women and it relation to infectious diseases, this is aligned with our objectives to empower women in both fields of research and oncology to improve women health” Rasha Kelej explained.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 Award winners: left to right front row- ‘Best African Woman Researchers Award’ 4th place winner Maria Nabaggala, from Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda; 5th place winner, Martha Zewdie, from Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia; 2nd place Best Young African Researchers winner, Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care; Best Young African Researchers 1st place winner Patricia Rantshabeng from University of Botswana; Best African Women Researchers 2nd place winner, Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso; ‘Best Young Researcher Award’ 3rd place winner, Lamin Cham from National Aids Control Program, Gambia; 2nd row: 2nd place Best Young Researchers Award winner, Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe; Best African Woman Researchers Award’ 1st place winner, Beatrice Nyagol from Kenya Medical Research Institute, together with Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Prof. Dr Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman, Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG; Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Ahmed Fahmi, Program Director, UNESCO and Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.
Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare introduces the Merck CAP blog as Olivier Drury and Michael Johnson from Business Technology at Merck look on.
The first ministerial high level panel on “Defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa,” involved: Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; Hon. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health, Niger; Hon. Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, Liberia; Hon. Jesús Engonga Ndong, Minister of Education & Science, Equatorial Guinea and Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG.
The second ministerial panel on “Research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation,” included: Hon. Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Hon. Prof. Afework Kassu Gizaw, Minister of Science and Technology, Ethiopia; Dr. João Sebastião Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone and Rashid Aman, Chairman, Kenya National Commission for UNESCO.

Best African Women Researchers Award

The ‘Best African Women Researchers Awards’ with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) went to five women researchers from across Africa, who were recognized for the quality of their research.

1st winner: Kenya- Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute

For her study on: “Clinicians’ experiences and insights in conducting an intra-vaginal ring study among young women in Kisumu, Kenya, 2015 -Lessons learned”

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Woman Researcher Award’ 1st place winner -Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya

2nd winner : Burkina Faso- Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University of Ouagadougou

For her study on:“Molecular diagnosis of cytomegalovirus (CMV), the human herpes virus type 6 (HHV6) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) by real-time PCR in pregnant women infected or not infected by HIV at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso”

UNESCO-MARS 2016 “Best African Woman Researcher Award” 2nd place winner, Alice Rogomenoma.

3rd winner: Gabon- Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville 

For her study on:“Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in children with malaria in Franceville, Gabon.”

Sandrine Liabagui

4th winner: Uganda – Maria Nabaggala, from the Infectious Diseases Institute

For her study on:“Understanding outcomes of HIV-positive patient tracking following a missed appointment in rural Uganda.”

5th winner: Ethiopia –Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute

For her study on: “Ex-vivo characterization of regulatory T-cells in pulmonary tuberculosis patients, latently infected persons, and healthy endemic controls”

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best African Women Researcher Award’ 5th place winner: Martha Zewdie Ethiopia.

Best Young African Researchers Award

The three categories of the ‘Best Young Researchers Award’ were given to two female and two male researchers Botswana, Cameroon, Gambia and Zimbabwe.
1st winner: Botswana-Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana

For her study on: “Prevalence of oncogenic Human Papillomavirus genotypes in women with vulvar and cervical squamous cell carcinoma in Botswana.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young African Researcher Award’ 1st place winner-Patricia Rantshabeng.

2nd winner: Cameroon- Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care

For his study on: “The experiences of women living with trachoma in Africa: A qualitative systematic review”

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young African Researcher Award’ 2nd place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon.

3rd winner; Zimbabwe-Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe

For his study on: “Cryptococcus neoformans population diversity is not associated with clinical outcomes of HIV-associated cryptococcal meningitis patients in Zimbabwe”

UNESCO-MARS 2016 “Best Young Researcher Award” 3rd place winner, Tinashe Nyazika, Zimbabwe.

3rd winner: Gambia- Lamin Cham, from National Aids Control Program

For his study on:Qualitative detection of proviral-DNA of HIV-1 in neonates to determine the efficacy of antiretroviral therapy in the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV-1 in the Gambia’

UNESCO-MARS 2016 ‘Best Young Researcher Award’ 3rd place winner Lamin Cham, Gambia.

Join Merck CAP Research online community to exchange experiences and information with other researchers in Africa and beyond www.merck-cap.com  free registration.
Join the conversation on building research capacity in Africa through UNESCO-MARS at:

Youtube: Merck Africa Research Summit
Twitter: @Merck_MARS
Facebook: Merck Africa Research Summit 
For more information on the UNESCO-MARS 2016 Summit go to:

www.unesco-mars.com and www.merck-cap.com