Handout 28 - Birth Certificates, Papers For Life

In every country, there will be a different set of papers or documents that girls will need to make sure they can access the institutions and resources available to them. Many of these documents are needed just to access basic rights. Without copies of these papers, girls are invisible to the government and many systems


What it is
Birth registration is the process by which a child’s birth is recorded in the civil register by the applicable government authority. It provides the first legal recognition of the child and is generally required for the child to obtain a birth certificate and consequently any other legal documents and rights. Whilst, in some cases, this is issued to the child at the same time as registration, in others, a separate application must be made.

Why it matters
Plan International describes a birth certificate as ‘a prerequisite for a legal identity’. A birth certificate is probably the most critical document to have access to – most other forms of identification will require a birth certificate as proof. It is important that the registered child receives a birth certificate, since it is this that provides permanent, official and visible evidence of a state’s legal recognition of his or her existence as a member of society.

Birth certificates are needed for a host of activities including:
• Accessing medical treatment
• Enrolling in school
• Getting married
• Inheriting property
• Finding a job
• Getting an identification document
• Opening a bank account
• Receiving government benefits
• Preventing child exploitation (such as trafficking or child labour)

There are many issues that prevent people from getting registered, including:
• Lack of awareness and motivation
• Fear of discrimination and persecution
• Incompatibility of birth registration with local realities
• Lack of resources

How to get one
Local governments can sometimes provide guidance on how to register for birth certificates. In addition, Plan International has a Universal Birth Registration campaign which aims to have every child registered for a birth certificate. It works with UNICEF and its network of local NGOs to make sure that parents understand how to register and are aware of the need to do so. There are often birth registration drives hosted by NGOs. Learn more on the internet at www.writemedown.org.