Birth Registration: Passport to Protection

What would life be like if you could not use your name on forms, or prove your age? What if according to the law, you did not exist? Worldwide, 49 per cent of children under the age of five are not registered at birth, mostly in rural areas in less developed countries. And every newborn needs this first step toward a safe and healthy future.

Birth registration—the official recording of a child’s birth by a government—is a fundamental human right. It is a cornerstone for other rights, providing governments with population data to plan for healthcare and education. It is also a passport to protection, to safeguard children from exploitation and abuse. And if there is a natural disaster, armed conflict or other emergency, it is needed for reunification with one’s family.

Birth registration enables a person to obtain a birth certificate; the registration and issuing of a certificate are two distinct events. However, both are direly needed. Unregistered children may be overlooked entirely by community health care workers and lose their chance for free or subsidized immunization. They will face obstacles in registering for school, and applying for scholarships, passports and driver licenses. They will lack protection from child labour, child marriage, trafficking, and in the juvenile justice system. They will not be able to inherit land or property when their parents die, because birth and death certificates would be required.

Religious communities are urged to help raise awareness and press for universal birth registration.

— Summarized from “ABCs for Action and Advocacy: A Note on Universal Birth Registration,” World Day of Prayer and Action Secretariat New York, Working Document, August 2012. The full document provides more information on obstacles to birth registration locally and nationally; insights from the field; and how religious communities can take action.

Take Action

The World Day urges advocacy for universal birth registration—particularly so that governments will make this registration free, accessible, and available to all children. Action will involve pressing for legislative change, adequate funding, and setting up channels for registration to happen. Please read on to see how you can help.

Ideas for Action on Birth Registration

Article no. 2 — Interview with the International Anglican Family Network – an official network of the Anglican Communion

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