As Malawi issues IDs for children, privacy concerns rise

Published: 27/Dec/2022
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Lack of data protection law raises privacy fears

By Charles Pensulo

MWANZA, Malawi, Dec 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – W aiting in line to register his three children with the government for the first time, Malawian motorcycle taxi driver Nyadani Michael recalled the everyday problems caused by their lack of official identity papers.

“When you enrol them in school, they ask for a birth certificate or some age proof,” said Michael, 30, as he queued up outside a classroom in the border town of Mwanza where the forms had to be submitted, holding the hand of his six-year-old daughter.

“One child also went missing near the house some years ago, and I had to file a police complaint. It was difficult because there was no form of identification for them,” he added.

Until recently, many Malawians did not register their children’s births. Michael only got his own national identity in 2018 as the government pushed to gather the biometrics of all adult Malawians and issue them identity cards.

Malawi adopted the National Registration Act in 2010, and enforced it in 2015, making it compulsory to register all births, deaths and marriages of adults older than 16.

Before that, most Malawians used their voter ID as their primary identification, getting a letter from their village chief attesting to their address and age to obtain a passport or driving licence. Millions of children were not registered.

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Themes: ID Documents and Passports
Regions: Malawi
Year: 2022