Source: Daily Maverick (South Africa)
By Monique Bennett
The Bill of Rights states that every child has the right to a name and a nationality from birth and that the child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child. Without a birth certificate, children become invisible.
“I was nobody and I belonged nowhere.” Lebo Maphoditsa is a 40-year-old mother of four who is still not recognised as a South African citizen because she was not registered at birth. Unfortunately, Lebo is not the only one and her statelessness has meant she cannot register her own children at birth. Unicef estimates 3.7 million children are orphaned in South Africa and, according to the Department of Social Development, more than 2,000 children are abandoned yearly.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines statelessness as “individuals who are not considered citizens or nationals under the operation of the laws of any country”. Stateless children are unable to access primary education, write matric examinations or have a future in adulthood without identification. Many children who are either abandoned or whose parents are asylum seekers become stateless when administrative duties are neglected, or under the law they are unable to register for citizenship.