Gender Gender

Importance of an identity

CHILDREN’S CORNER with PANIC CHILUFYA
FROM the time a child is born, it has the right to an identity as enshrined under Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lasts an entire life time. The right to an identity is the bedrock of a healthy and diverse society.
An identity comprises a first name, surname, date of birth, gender and nationality; all these details are recorded on a birth certificate and other important documents like national registration card (NRC), passport, driving licence, and voter’s card.
With a legally recorded identity, a child becomes a citizen of society and then is able to enjoy all essential social services such as health care, education and judicial protection. Without proper identity documents, such a child is invisible to the State and cannot prosper. The terminology that applies is that the child is not a person before the law.
Such a child becomes invisible to society and will not benefit from protection and social services essential for development. It also hinders the child’s ability to benefit from judicial protection through their parents and the State.
It is sad that most parents do not understand the benefits of acquiring a birth certificate for their children, which is common among the vulnerable groups in society. This can be attributed to lack of information and inadequate sensitisation.
This reminds me of 19-year-old Maureen, a small-scale trader who has been unable to open an account to save her little profit because she does not have an NRC one of the requirements from all financial institutions.
Maureen, who is an orphan, wanted to find out how to get an NRC because her maternal uncle has been unable to accompany her to the National Registration, Passport and Citizenship Department due to ill health. For first-time applicants, it is compulsory to be accompanied by a family member for the department to verify all details pertaining to the applicant.
Maureen lamented that her failure to get an NRC has disadvantaged her as she has also not been able to register as a voter for elections due in August this year. This failure is an infringement of young Maureen’s other rights as she does not have any form of identity. Sadly, Maureen was not even aware that her mother was issued with a record of birth at the time she was born a practice at all health facilities.
There are so many other children who are in Maureen’s predicament. This calls for concerted efforts and sensitisation campaigns by the Government and the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship, in particular, to ensure that parents acquire birth records and certificates for their babies within the shortest possible time.
However, Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson Moses Siwali says it is a requirement by law that one needs to be accompanied when getting an NRC for the first time.
Mr Siwali said: “The registration officers will not give an NRC to a person or child who is not accompanied by a relative because the country risks issuing it to a foreigner.”
He said if relatives are not there to accompany the child, it means the character of the child is questionable.
In some countries, a few days after birth, babies are captured within the data base. They are issued with the necessary documents to ensure that they are immediately recognised as members of that particular society. These children are not likely to be disadvantaged in future or fall prey to vices such as child marriages, defilement and child trafficking. They are always accounted for regardless of their status in society.
Last week, Minister of Home Affairs Davies Mwila said registering a birth is proof of existence of children; because in the absence of information about the identity of parents, date and place of birth, such children lack complete recognition.
The minister was speaking in Chisamba on Friday when he launched the Central Province health facility birth registration campaign at Liteta Mission Hospital.
“A child without a birth certificate may, therefore, not be protected with regard to identity, child marriages, child trafficking, defilement, child labour, inheritance, health services and education,” he said.
Mr Mwila said birth registration should, therefore, be taken seriously because the State requires information on who was born within its boundaries and those that were born in foreign land.
Currently, at a global level, over 230 million children under the age of five are not registered; 85 million of these children are in Africa, including Zambia.
And UNICEF country representative Hamid El-Bashir Ibrahim said birth registration is central to ensuring that children are counted and have access to basic services such as health, social security and education.
Dr Ibrahim said as a passport to protection, birth registration provides evidence of a child’s age, and can help government to address child marriage, exploitative labour and child trafficking, which is a gross violation of the rights of undocumented children.
To register a child into any institution of learning, a birth certificate is a requirement; as it is to sit for Grade 12 exams, driving test, to acquire a passport, to vote and many other rights of a citizen in Zambia. One needs to provide details of an NRC, which is issued immediately a child attains 16 years. The information contained herein, is derived from that very important document which is issued to mothers immediately after a delivery and later transforms into a birth certificate. It is imperative that parents and guardians are sensitised on the importance of getting a certificate for every birth so that children are able to enjoy all the rights they deserve; being citizens of this great country and the world.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
pchilufya@daily-mail.co.zm; gender@daily-mail.


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