Women obtain free birth certificates for their children

19 Aug

 
At the Khafji center, in one of Sana’a’s poorer suburbs, little children stand in line with their mothers to obtain their birth certificates. (photo by Malak Shaher)
Malak Shaher

Published:19-08-2010

 
 
Sumaya Mustafa Al-Ammari, almost four, and other children pushed each other in the narrow corridor leading to the registration office. The little girl was standing with her mother in line in order to obtain a free birth certificate. She had never had one up until then because her father could not pay the YR 3,000 fee to obtain one.

All over Yemen, especially in the very poor rural areas, some cannot afford the registration fees to register their children at birth, and therefore do not do so until they are six or seven years old and need to go to school. Only then do fathers go to the Authority of Civil Affairs and Civil Record (ACACR) to get their children a birth certificate.

Since the beginning of August 2010, Save the Children in cooperation with the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been working in two districts in Sana’a to grant children birth certificates. Their campaign aims at giving birth certificates to as many children as possible before the end of this year.

“If it was not free, I would not come. My daughter is only four years old and we do not need to get her a certificate unless she has to enroll in school,” said Sumaya’s mother. “My husband had to pay YR 6,000 two years ago because he wanted to register our two sons in school. Now I can register my daughter for free.”

As the campaign targets people in the poor areas of Sana’a, it also aims to raise the awareness of the Yemeni and refugee parents in the communities that having a birth certificate is a right for every child and it is also free of charge.

The centers are coordinated with the ACACR and are funded by Save the Children and UNHCR.

The protection program specialist of Save the Children, Aisha Saeed, stressed the important role of every member in the community — Yemenis or refugees — in increasing the awareness about obtaining a birth certificate for children in order to secure their right to a name and nationality. She said that birth certificates are necessary documents to protect children’s rights in their childhood and future.

She said that they make birth registration easier by not requiring that fathers be present in order to give the children the certificates.

“Now mothers come to one of the centers, show the marriage certificate and get the certificate for her children,” she said.

The campaign aimed to uphold Ministerial Decree No. 120 of 2006 that provides that birth certificates are free for everyone.

Saeed added that they are working in cooperation with the ACACR to grant midwives the authority to issue birth certificates as many women give birth to their children at home.

This campaign is part of Save the Children’s “Birth Registration Project” and follows a previous campaign in January 2010 to register children’s births for free.

“People came over to register their children. They feel they are lucky to have their children’s birth certificates, especially when knowing that many people wanted their children to enroll in schools next month,” Saeed explained.

According to Khaled Ali Masood Al-Riyashi, 300 children — 250 Yemenis and 50 Somalis — had been registered by the fourth day of the latest campaign in Sana’a.

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