During the festive period, the Provincial Division of Interior Affairs at the city-province of Kinshasa organised, with the support of UNICEF, an awareness-raising campaign for parents on the importance of birth certificates and registering births at the civil status office.
We noticed that many children were not registered with the civil status office, even though this procedure is free in the 90 days that follow the birth of the child. This was not a surprise to us because the results of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys from 2017–2018 showed that, at most, 35% of children under the age of five had birth certificates.
Many parents are unaware of the importance of this question
The birth certificate is an essential document for a child’s protection, particularly against loss of inheritance, economic exploitation, sexual exploitation, and child marriages.
With other Child Reporters, we went to the Bumbu commune in Kinshasa to raise parents’ awareness about the importance of registering children at the civil status office. The parents whom we met explained why their children were not registered. For most of them, they were not aware of the procedure, while others cited lack of organisation on the part of the civil status office.
After explaining to parents why it is important to register their children, we gave them informational forms explaining how children who had passed the deadline for free registration (90 days) could benefit from registration without fees thanks to a supplementary assessment.
For the Bumbu commune alone, we completed 604 forms that should allow for hundreds of children in 604 households to register. We hope that the authorities will grant the birth certificates to these children in a very short period because, if this is not done, people will no longer take us seriously in the future.
An identity for every child
Every child is entitled to identity. This identity is recognised in various legal instruments ratified by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that “[t]he child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality”.
I think that it is necessary to organise more campaigns like this because they allow a large number of people to become aware of the legal provisions on the rights of the child. These campaigns also help save many unregistered children.