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Botswana First Lady commends Merck Foundation for Healthcare initiatives

Botswana’s First Lady, Mrs Neo Jane Masisi was among the 15 African First Ladies invited as Guests of Honor during the Annual Conference. When speaking at the conference, The First Lady commended the Merck Foundation for its contribution in assisting countries to promote quality and equitable health care capacity. 

Mrs Masisi noted that the efforts by Merck Foundation and partners will help ensure that there is healthcare for all by 2030 as envisaged. According to The First Lady, Merck Foundation has already awarded 30 scholarships to Botswana healthcare workers. She noted that there are efforts to combat another silent monster of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which is [proving to be a threat to healthcare provision.

Acknowledging Merck Foundation’s commitment to improve healthcare, Mrs Masisi said there are also noticeable results or impact when it comes to fighting Gender Based Violence and Infertility Stigma. She said this is because of the initiatives supported by the Merck Foundation.

In addition, Mrs Masisi who is Merck Foundation’s “More than a Mother Ambassador” noted thanked front line workers for their gallant efforts in saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the MFFLI was convening during the recovery period after the pandemic and it is important to note their efforts.

The Merck Foundation held its 9th edition Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2022 inauguration session in Dubai this week. The event was chaired by Senator Rashad Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation. In attendance were 15 African First Ladies and African Ministers of different sectors from 15 countries.

All the African First Ladies in attendance discussed the impact of joint programs with Merck foundation in their countries followed by “Ask us anything” session.

The 9th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary was officially inaugurated by Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of both the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.

The Annual Conference was chaired by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, Merck Foundation CEO and Chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary. More than 10,000 Healthcare Providers, Policy Makers, Academia, Researchers, and Media from over 70 English, French, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries will benefit from the Luminary.

For her part, Merck Foundation CEO, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej thanked The First Ladies for attending the event. She said she is looking forward to working with the Ambassadors from the various countries to advance the message of fighting Gender Based Violence (GBV), combating the Infertility Stigma, and ensuring equitable and quality health care for all.

Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) is the Merck Foundation platform for African First Ladies and Merck Foundation’s “More Than a Mother” Ambassadors established with the aim to discuss challenges, define solutions, measure impact and share experience to ensure continuous improvement and exchange in various aspects of different cultures in order to localize and/or standardize specific messages that can raise awareness and create a culture shift across Africa.

The culture shift advocates for Breaking Infertility Stigma, Supporting Girl Education, Ending Child Marriage & FGM, Women Empowerment and Stopping GBV and raising awareness about Diabetes Prevention and Early Detection. Furthermore, there is also an urge to empower Girls and Women in Education in general and in STEM in Particular.

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People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.



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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.


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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.


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