Thursday, 2 June 2016

Protecting children through birth registration

By Kristi Eaton, UNICEF Indonesia Communication and Knowledge Management Officer

Siti Mariyam, head of the division of Civil Registration (left), reads over the birth certificate to new parents, Rahardi Joko Suparno and Riya Ulfa Radila. © UNICEF/2016/Kristi Eaton

The husband and wife sit quietly at the health post, grinning wildly at their new-born baby, born just six days earlier. A few minutes later they are handed little Raka Maliki’s birth certificate and the smiles grow even wider.

“This is a legal document,” says the father, Rahardi Joko Suparno. “It’s true. It shows this is my child. He will now be able to go to school and have a future.”

Birth certificates are a basic human right and a necessity for obtaining education, employment, health benefits and more. It also protects the child from falling victim to trafficking. But many people in Indonesia do not understand or know the process to register the birth of their child and obtain a certificate. That’s why UNICEF offers technical support to the local government to increase outreach services for registration and establish online services at maternity hospitals, community health posts and village offices.

Siti Mariyam, head of the division of Civil Registration (right), signs marriage and birth registrations at her office in Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia. © UNICEF/2016/Kristi Eaton

Pasuruan, a city of 212,000 people in East Java, has been leading the way. In 2010, only 60 percent of children under 18 were registered. Now that number stands at 91 percent. Pasuruan is a shining example of what can happen when a community decides to make child protection a priority.

“This is an acknowledgement that they exist,” Siti Mariyam, head of the division of Civil Registration in Pasuruan, says of birth registration. “It makes the state recognize them, to say, ‘I am here in Indonesia.’”

There are now online systems in 34 villages throughout Pasuruan, and the village of Bakalan has one of the highest levels of coverage in all of Pasuruan. It’s thanks in large part to people like Ahmad Efendi, a worker at the village office who helps people fill out and complete the registration process. Efendi helps an average of five to six people each day with birth certificates _ some demanding, some lacking knowledge, some in a hurry. It’s important for Efendi to remain calm throughout the process and remind people of the opportunity they are being afforded, he says. “When I see people smile and say thank you, I am happy,” he adds.

Mother Ria Anggria Sari holds her baby, 9-month-old Callista Alma Abida, as she applies for a birth certificate for the young child Pasuruan, East Java, Indonesia. © UNICEF/2016/Kristi Eaton

For Boedi Widayat, maintaining Pasuruan’s high level of coverage is an all-consuming job. Every day, Widayat, who is head of the Civil Registration and Population Administration, walks into his office, sits down at his desk and logs on to his computer. He scrolls through the database breaking down the levels of coverage and notes any major changes in the numbers, most notable any dips in percentage coverage. He also checks the progress at the end of the day. When he’s away from the office, he uses his Android phone to check the numbers.

At night, Widayat and other officials can be found leading neighbourhood meetings to teach people about the importance of birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates. During one meeting, Widayat used a PowerPoint slide to explain exactly what was needed for each person to obtain a birth certificate, going through the list one by one in detail. Such outreach efforts will hopefully help Pasuruan reach the goal of 100 percent coverage by 2020.

“It’s about the protection of your children,” Widayat says.

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