Child protection is about safeguarding the future of our nation and ensuring the future of our country. Every child must have a birth certificate in order to protect his or her rights and nationality and enable him or her to attend school or access social services.
The act of standing up for someone, making sure that no harm comes to them
As part of the UNICEF-supported project to strengthen the legal and social protection system for vulnerable children and children made vulnerable by armed conflict, 1,200 children from the city of Goma received their birth certificates on Friday, 13th December 2019.
The children were really happy during the ceremony for the presentation of birth certificates in the hall of the Civil Registry Office of the commune of Goma. We interviewed a young person called Saidi, 16 years of age who had been released from the armed forces.
With help from the rehabilitation and support centre where he is being cared for, Saidi was able to obtain his birth certificate free of charge, without having to pay the costs of the supplementary judgment. He is happy to receive this document that enables him to be recognised as a “child” among many others. If Saidi had obtained his birth certificate earlier, he would have been recognised by the state and his parents would have been able to claim him from the authorities when he was enlisted in the armed forces.
We also interviewed 12-year-old Lionel, who had just received his birth certificate. “It’s where my whole identity is that declares that I am a Congolese national,” explains Lionel.
In order to obtain this birth certificate, his mother had to go to the commune office to register him. Lionel’s mother was often asked for this document in order to obtain a medical voucher or other service, but she did not know what the procedure was. By going to the Registry Office to explain the situation, the family was identified and registered for a supplementary judgement in order to obtain Lionel’s birth certificate.
For Lionel, the birth certificate represents many things: getting a health voucher at the hospital, being able to travel etc. Lionel is relieved and asks other parents to follow his mother’s example and register the birth of their children.
A birth certificate for every child
Every child has the right to protection without discrimination as stated in article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Moreover, the birth certificate ensures protection for the child and enables him or her to claim his or her rights in case of violation. Every child must have a birth certificate as stated in article 7 of the same convention.
The Child protection Act specifies that such registration may be done free of charge within 90 days of the birth. If this deadline is exceeded, it is possible to obtain a supplementary judgement from the juvenile judge, but this procedure is costly and therefore inaccessible to the most vulnerable families.
We recommend that all parents register their children within the legal and cost-free period of 90 days following the birth. We also encourage the Congolese government and its partners to increase the number of supplementary judgments as there are still many children who are not yet registered with the civil registry.
Article written by Ramazani and Feza, two Young Reporters from the city of Goma in North Kivu