Merck Foundation Recognizes Pioneering Women and Young Researchers in Africa

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CEO of Merck Foundation (, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej and Scientific Committee announced and recognized the winners of Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit – MARS Awards 2023 winners, 6 Researchers from 6 different African Countries awarded in two categories – Best African Women Researchers and Best African young Researchers; MARS Awards Ceremony was attended by African Ministers of Health, Technology, Information & Technology, Social Affairs, Women Rights & Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare; Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit – MARS 2023 Awards was in partnership with African Union Scientific Technical Research Commission, International Federation of Fertility Societies -IFFS, Africa Reproductive Care Society – ARCS, and Manipal University, India.

Merck Foundation also announced the Call for Applications for new edition of Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit – MARS Awards 2024 to empower Women and Youth in STEM in Africa with special focus on ‘The Role of Scientific Research in Women Health and Reproductive & Fertility Care’; Watch the Livestream of the MARS 2023 Awards Ceremony:

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany announced and celebrated the winners of Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards 2023 announced in partnership with International Federation of Fertility Societies -IFFS, Africa Reproductive Care Society – ARCS, Manipal University and African Union Scientific Technical Research Commission to recognize African Researchers for their valuable research work and contribution to empowering women and youth in STEM in Africa with special focus on ‘The Role of Scientific Research in Women Health and Reproductive & Fertility Care’.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit -MARS expressed, “Like every year since 2016, I am extremely proud of our 6 Winners of MARS Awards this year who have been recognized under the two categories of ‘Best African Women Researchers Awards’ and ‘Best African Young Researcher Awards’ for their valuable contribution in research, especially by African Female Researchers who are under presented in this field, as we all know. Through Merck Foundation African Research Summit – MARS Awards, we aim to empower African young researchers and of course to empower and encourage African women researchers through advancing their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”

The winners of ‘Best African women Researchers Awards’ and ‘Best African Young Researcher Awards’ will be enrolled into research training at a premier institute in India.

“And I am also very happy to share with you all that as promised, we provided an opportunity to one of first winner of each category, however, only Ms. Stella Irungu from Kenya was able to attend the 4-day long International Federation of Fertility Societies – The IFFS World Congress 2023, held recently in Athens, Greece”, shared Senator Rasha Kelej.

Merck Foundation is committed to improving the lives of people and has been transforming the Patient care landscape and making history together with its partners in Africa, Asia, and beyond, by providing 1740 Scholarships for doctors from 50 Countries in 42 critical and underserved medical specialties.

“Out of our 1740 scholarships, we have provided more than 535 scholarships for clinical and practical training for Fertility & Embryology, PG Diploma & Master Degree in Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Clinical Psychiatry, Women’s Health, Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction & Embryology, Urology, Laparoscopic Surgical skills to doctors from 39 countries across Africa and Asia. We are proud of this achievement”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej.

The award ceremony was attended by Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, OFR, President of African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), President of The Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria & Secretary General of International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), Nigeria and Prof. Dr. Satish Kumar Adiga, Head, Department of Reproductive Science and Coordinator at Fertility Preservation Centre, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, India.

Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, OFR shared, “I extend my congratulations to all the deserving recipients of the MARS Awards 2023. The received entries demonstrated exceptional quality of research. This platform holds significant value for African women and young researchers dedicated to health research.”

The ceremony was also attended by the below African Ministers:

  1. Hon. Dr. BARADAHANA Lydwine, Minister of Public Health and Fighting Against AIDS, Republic of Burundi
  2. Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health, The Gambia
  3. Hon. Mrs Imelde SABUSHIMIKE Minister of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender, Republic of Burundi (Represented by Donatienne GIRUKWISHAKA, General Director for the Promotion of Women and Gender Equality)
  4. Hon. Jean Sendeza, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Republic of Malawi
  5. Madam Leocadie NDACAYISABA, Minister of Communication, Information Technologies and Media, Republic of Burundi (Represented by Mr. MANIRAKIZA Ferdinand, Permanent Secretary, Minister of Communication, Information Technologies and Media)

The MARS 2023 Award Winners are:

Winners of “MARS Best Women African Researchers Awards” 2023

  • Stella Irungu, KENYA

TOPIC: Identifying Biomarkers For The Non-Invasive Diagnosis Of Endometriosis

  • Motshedisi Sebitloane, SOUTH AFRICA

TOPIC: Women Living With HIV Treatment Are At Increased Risk Of Premature Menopause

  • Oyeyemi Ifeoluwa, NIGERIA

TOPIC: Anticancer Effect Of A Copper(Ii) Complex With Vanillin 3-Ethyl-Thiosemicarbazone Ligand In Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Winners of “MARS Best Young African Researchers Awards” 2023

  • Afework Tadele Mekonnen, ETHIOPIA

TOPIC: Social Determinants Of Maternal Health In Developing Countries: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis

  • Stephene Shadrack Meena, TANZANIA

TOPIC: Targeting Tumor-Promoting Inflammation To Control The Growth And Metastasis Of Breast Cancer


TOPIC: Prevalence And Risk Factors Of Maternal Near-Miss At Kirehe District Hospital In Rwanda: Implications For Improving Women’s Health In Africa

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej  further shared, “I am also excited to announce the Call for Applications for our prestigious Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards 2024‘The Role of Scientific Research in Women Health and Infertility & Reproductive Care’ will be the key focus this year too. Eventually, through these awards, Merck Foundation aims to empower Women Researchers and young African Researchers to strengthen the important role research plays towards contributing to public health thus improving healthcare capacity with special focus on women health, infertility and reproductive health in Africa.”

MARS 2024 will have scientific support from African Union Scientific-Technical and Research Commission (AU-STRC)African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS); and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), India.

Details for MARS AWARDS 2024

– Abstracts are invited from final year PhD students, young investigators involved in research and Medical Doctors in Postgraduate Medical Fellowship program related to either of the following topics:

1) Women Health

2) Infertility and Reproductive Care

Applicants should be primarily based at African Research Institutes and Universities, although collaboration within Africa as well as outside is also welcome.

Last Date of Submission:

Applications can be submitted till 30th June 2024

How to apply:

Apply online here:

Alternatively, Applications and abstracts can be submitted via email to

along with CV (including Name, Gender, Country, University/Hospital Name, Email address, Mobile Number) and the abstract document as an attachment.

Entries are invited under the below categories:

  • Best African Women Researchers
  • Best African Young Researcher

The Winners receive a 3-month Research Training scholarship in India.

Winners will be invited to attend the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2024.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Merck Foundation.

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