UNHCR is working with the South African government to help people at risk of statelessness obtain vital identity documents.
By Pumla Rulashe in Brits, South Africa | 10 December 2020
Mpho Modise can only guess her age and it embarrasses her. “I would say I am about 33,” she says.
She is unsure because her birth in South Africa was never registered. Yet establishing her age is the least of her problems. Without a birth certificate, she risks becoming stateless because she cannot prove that she is a citizen.
Mpho believes she was around seven when she was abandoned with extended family in 1994 in Brits, a small farming town in the North West Province.
“One day mama went to work and never came home,” she said. “That was the last I ever saw her. She left nothing that identified who I am.”
The family that brought her up shared a surname with Mpho, but they could not get her a birth certificate. Mpho would watch forlornly as her new siblings went off to school every morning, while she stayed home to cook and clean. Denied school, she never learned to read or write.