A birth certificate has given me my Congolese identity back !

Published: 11/Sep/2017
Source: UNICEF Congo -- Ponabana

YOUNG REPORTER – The right to an identity is vital for every child, however all too often children in the DRC do not have birth certificates. Olivier, Young Reporter, went to meet Marie, a vulnerable child living in Mbuji Mayi to find out more.

Meeting Marie

Marie has been an orphan since she was 3 years old. Today, she is eleven and lives at the Don Bosco accommodation centre. A melancholy, calm girl with sullen features, Marie opened up to us and told us about herself: “Before I arrived at Don Bosco, I lived in another shelter on the outskirts of Mbuji Mayi. My parents died when I was 3 years old, leaving me in the care of my grandmother. But she was poor and couldn’t look after me so she took me to Don Bosco“.

Marie was identified by the Department of Social Affairs to benefit from a free birth registration service during local mobile court hearings. She benefited from this special mechanism at a hearing held at the Don Bosco Centre and obtained a transcription of her birth certificate in the Civil register.

By holding the mobile court hearings outside of the formal law courts and moving them closer to where children are, this mechanism aims to enable an individual to obtain a decision from an official court when a birth certificate  doesn’t exist, has been lost or destroyed. The mechanism is laid down in the Family Code.

A birth certificate in the DRC is more than just a piece of paper

Many vulnerable children in Mbuji Mayi have been given a second chance to obtain their birth certificates. Marie is just one of these children. Today, she says with a smile “I feel more confident now that I have my birth certificate, a document that makes me a Congolese citizen”.

She hopes that this project will continue and that the government will put in place exceptional measures to allow for the late registration of a child’s birth so that all children enjoy the same rights. She encourages parents to register their children within 90 days of their birth, as the fees for obtaining a substitute birth certificate from the court are exorbitant after this time.

A universal commitment

A child’s birth certificate is worth its weight in gold. It is the embodiment of a state’s responsibility under Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to protect and, if necessary, restore the fundamental aspects of a child’s identity (including his or her right to a name, nationality and family relationship).

We are eternally grateful to UNICEF for its support of vulnerable children, to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development for their financing and finally to the provincial government of Kasai-Oriental for the organisation of mobile court hearings for more than 1,900 vulnerable children living in temporary support structures in Mbuji Mayi.

More info about birth reigstration in DRC

The 2013-14 Demographic and Health Survey indicates that only 25% of children under five are registered within the civil registry, and only 14% have a birth certificate. This is due to the registration system struggling to reach new-borns, especially in conflict zones. The Birth Registration Programme focusses on systematising the registration of new-borns by reconciling health services with those of the Civil Registry. Additional Civil Registry offices are also being established to increase the accessibility of services by reducing travel time. UNICEF also carries out “catch-up” activities for the most vulnerable children who have exceeded the legal registration deadline of 90 days, especially those released from armed forces and armed groups, and victims of SGBV.

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Themes: Identity Documents, Birth Registration
Regions: Central Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Year: 2017