Monday, August 17, 2015

Birth registration gives every child their right to an identity

By Kong Vanny and Ariel Hofher


 © UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Kong Vanny 
Chruy Saveth, holds her baby Yaty and shows the child’s birth certificate in Ou Kandoul village, Kampong Cham province.

Kampong Cham, Cambodia, 17 August 2015 – Sitting on a woven mat on the floor of her home in Ou Kandoul village, Kampong Cham province, Chruy Saveth cradles Yaty, her newborn daughter. Yaty is just 11 days old, yet an incredibly important event has already taken place in her life. Saveth holds out a single sheet of headed paper, which has been signed and stamped; in the future, this piece of paper will allow Yaty to access healthcare, education and eventually employment. It is her birth registration certificate.

Lack of birth registration is a key issue in rural Cambodia as many families are not aware of the importance of getting a birth certificate for their children. The local health centre staff and Oum Ki, Ou Kandoul village chief, advised Saveth about the social and health benefits Yaty would receive with a birth certificate. Registering within the first 30 days not only guarantees a child access to human rights such as healthcare and education, but it also prevents parents from being met with a 10,000 Riel (about $2.5) fine.

“I knew I would not need to pay if I registered my baby within 30 days,” Saveth says. “So eight days after Yaty’s birth, my husband and mother went to the commune office."

With support from UNICEF, Preak Krabao Commune Council (the commune where Ou Kandoul village is located) is implementing the Village Record Book programme to ensure that all newborn children are properly registered. As part of this programme, three leaders are identified in each village and tasked to keep track of the number of pregnant women and newborns. The leaders then report their findings to the Preak Krabao commune council every month.

If some children have not yet been registered, the village leaders organize a visit to the parents’ home to make them aware of why it is important to get a birth certificate. Birth registration grants a child an identity and, with the access to services it unlocks, provides him or her with an advance towards social inclusion.

Oum Ki says, “I have used the village record book since 2014 and I have recorded 22 newborn babies so far. 20 of them have been registered and received birth certificates from the commune councillor.”

© UNICEF Cambodia/2015/Kong Vanny
Village chief Oum Ki (right) verifies the names of newborns who have received a birth certificates with the commune councillor in Preak Krabao commune, Kampong Cham province.

Birth registration is a key priority at monthly meetings held between the village chiefs and the commune officers in Preak Krabao commune. During these meetings, village record books are compared with the council birth register to identify how many newborns have not been registered yest and where they are located.

Since its launch, the system has proved to be successful. In 2014, over 96 per cent of the 287 babies born in the commune have been registered, compared to 87 per cent the year before.

While holding both the birth certificate and sleeping Yaty, Saveth appears at peace. Now aware of what she has given Yaty by registering her birth, she concludes, “This [birth certificate] is important for my baby when she grows up as she will use it to enrol at school, get her identification card and, eventually, find a job.”

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