Prof. Stangenberg empowers African women and girls in STEM

By Christine Muchira/Release

UNESCO and Merck are celebrating outstanding African Women Researchers.

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”, he added.

Merck Chief Social Officer Rasha Kelej said 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 Kelej.

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.

Dr Kelej, noted that this is the second UNESCO-MARS being held 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”, said Kelej.

“Our support for Women in research and healthcare especially 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 aa patient initiative which focuses mainly on Cancer in women and its social misperception and stigma” Rasha Kelej added.

The first award winner was Patricia Rantshabeng from Botswana awarded for her study on cancer in women and its relation to infectious diseases, which is aligned with Merk’s objectives to empower women in both fields of research and oncology to improve women health” Rasha Kelej explained.

‘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.

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

Beatrice Nyagol of Kenya Medical Research Institute was the first Kenyan winner. She was awarded for her study on: “Clinicians’ experiences and insights in conducting an intra-vaginal ring study among young women in Kisumu, Kenya, 2015 -Lessons learned”.

Burkina Faso’s Rogomenoma Ouedraogo of Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University of Ouagadougou came in second place 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”.

“Best African Women Researchers Award”

  • 1st Place: Beatrice Nyagol, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: Rogomenoma Ouedraogo, Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Genetics University, Burkina Faso
  • 3rd Place: Sandrine Liabagui ep Assangaboua, Ecole Doctorale Regionale d’Afrique Centrale, Franceville, Gabon
  • 4th Place: Maria Nabaggala, Infectious Diseases Institute, Uganda
  • 5th Place: Martha Zewdie, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia


“Best Young African Researchers Award”

  • 1st Place: Patricia Rantshabeng, University of Botswana, Botswana
  • 2nd Place: Constantine Asahngwa, Cameroon Centre for Evidence Based Health Care
  • 3rd Place: Tinashe Nyazika, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
  • 3rd place : Lamin Cham, National Aids Control Program, Gambia

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