Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UNICEF supports Cambodian commune councils to provide birth certificates

Ms. Yam Seath with her three children at their house in Por Pi village, Prey Veng
©UNICEF Cambodia2013/Rin Ream
 PREY VENG, Cambodia, 15 May 2013 – Seven year old Srey Mao wants to become a doctor and her five year old brother, Sam Nang, wants to be a teacher. With their baby brother, Sranoh, they live with their mother, 37 year old Yam Seath, in a small bamboo house in Por Pi village, Done Keung commune, about 40 km from the provincial town of Prey Veng. They returned to the village after their father abandoned the family in 2012 following a failed relocation to another province. Though their mother cannot read or write she has big ambitions for her children.

On her return to Prey Veng, Seath was therefore eager to enrol Mao and Nang in school. She says, “I didn’t have anything when I returned to my home village, but my three children. A few days after our return, I took my daughter and son to school. The school teacher asked if I brought their birth certificates and I said, ‘No’.” For the first time, Seath realized that birth certificates were required for enrolment. Upon asking the commune chief for help she learned that she should have applied for the document within thirty days after the birth of each child.

Seven years old, Srey Mao received her birth certificate and now goes to primary school.
©UNICEF Cambodia2013/Rin Ream
Commune commitment to register all vital events

Fortunately, Done Keung commune is one of seventy-four being supported by UNICEF with funding from the Japan Committee for UNICEF, to strengthen the registration of vital events and the commune clerk was able to issue Seath with birth certificates for all her children. “I didn’t pay anything for the certificates” Seath says with some relief, “Although the commune clerk told me that late registration usually requires parents to pay a 4,000 Riel (US$1.00) fine, the commune paid on my behalf. I am thankful to the commune council for helping me to get birth certificates for my children. I was worried that I might fail to get my children to go to school and they might end up illiterate like me and have difficult life like mine.” 

Seath now also recognizes that the birth certificate has other benefits. “I love my children very much. I am glad I was able to receive proper identification papers. I was told that my children’s names, birth dates, places of birth, even parents’ names are all written there. I also learnt the certificate will enable my children to get an ID card when they reach the age of fifteen. I hope this will also help them to find good jobs,” said Seath.

The right to a name and nationality

The right to a name and nationality is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to establish and protect a child’s identity. Birth registration helps ensure access to basic services, including immunization, health care and school enrolment at the age of six. It is also essential in protection efforts to prevent child labour, counter child marriage and reduce trafficking. However, birth registration in Cambodia remains a challenge, with only half of children under age five having a birth certificate (Cambodian Demographic Health Survey 2010).

Having birth certificates enabled Srey Mao and Sam Nang to enter school and benefit from an education.
©UNICEF Cambodia2013/Rin Ream
Thanks to UNICEF and the Japan Committee for UNICEF, Done Keung commune has made a significant progress in increasing birth registration. With information and training, commune leaders have increased community awareness about the importance of birth registration, how to go about it and when to do so. As a result, since 2011 the parents of all newborn babies in the commune have been issued with birth certificates. The commune is also promoting the importance of registering other vital events such as family marriages and deaths, and registration data is regularly discussed at monthly commune council meetings.

According to Done Keung Commune Chief Mr. Meas Mom, “I am committed to help all people, especially the newborn babies have a birth certificate. Everyone has a right to an identity.”
By Rin Ream

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