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Kate Jongbloed

Why is a birth certificate so important for girls’ rights?

Kate Jongbloed

birth certificateCan I see your ID?

We get asked this question so often in every day life: when we take our kids to the doctor, apply for a marriage license, vote, sit exams, apply for a bank loan, start a new job, or apply for a passport.

Without a government ID, such as a birth certificate, many of these rights would be unavailable to us.

Yet when Plan launched its global campaign to officially register every child in 2005, there were areas where we work where less than 10% of children were registered with the government!

Did you know? In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 41% of children under 5 years old are registered. In South Asia, that number drops to 37%. That means that more than half of children living in these regions are not official citizens!

Rights and birth certificates go hand in hand

Birth registration is a right in itself, laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But that little piece of paper opens the door to a whole host of other rights as well.

“Registering a birth is a critical first step in ensuring the rights of a child. Registration means proof – not only of identity, but of existence. A birth certificate is confirmation of a child’s nationality, place of birth, parentage and age. In many countries it is seen as the key identity document, outweighing any other – a birth certificate is often needed to apply for a passport, driving license or national identity card, as the child becomes an adult,” says Plan’s Count Every Child report.

Having a birth certificate is also a crucial tool for protecting children – especially girls – against exploitation. “Proof of age is critical in successfully prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against children such as child trafficking, sexual offences, early recruitment into the armed forces, child marriage and child labour.”

Count Every Child

Since launching the Count Every Child campaign, Plan has helped register over 40 million people in 32 countries!

How have we been so successful? These are the crucial ingredients for our recipe for success! We:

  • Empowered children to know their right to a birth certificate
  • Educated parents on the need to register their children
  • Gave technical support to governments to improve their registration systems
  • Held large registration events to get whole communities registered – adults too!

Here are some examples from around the world!

Tanzania: Before Plan started the Universal Birth Registration campaign, only 19% of children under 6 had their births registered in Tanzania. With Plan’s support, over 1 million new registrations have been documented with the government since 2005!

Ecuador & Kenya: Birth registration can be a major challenge in rural and remote areas far from government offices. Teams in Kenya and Ecuador used mobile phones to text birth notifications to authorities to make sure every child was counted.

Bangladesh: Even a small fee for birth registration can be a significant barrier to new parents living in poverty. Plan’s lobbying alongside local partners in Bangladesh ensured that birth registration was free when the country’s new Birth Registration Act came into force.

Cameroon: In many countries, women and children are sometimes seen as the property of their husband or father. In Cameroon, an unmarried woman needs two witnesses to testify to the paternity of her child before the authorities will issue a birth certificate. Plan’s work to end discrimination against girls and women is a key part of our global registration campaign.

Provide a girl with legal armour – give a Birth certificate Gift of Hope!