Source: The Africa Report
By Abdul Noormohamed, Luminate’s Africa Director
Over half of African children are legally unregistered, thereby lacking legal documentation that excludes them from civic life. Here is a look at the journey and strategies employed to support such individuals in East Africa to gain legal documentation like national IDs and reduce barriers to their full participation in society.
Batul Juma Kisaka is a mother of four living in Nairobi, Kenya. She belongs to the country’s Nubian community, made up of about 100,000 descendants of people originally from the territory of Sudan. They came to Kenya over 100 years ago to serve in the East African Rifles, a regiment of the British colonial armed forces. Like many others in her community, Batul grew up and lived without a national ID card, a document necessary for recognition of her citizenship and essential for everyday life.
Without a national ID card, Batul could not register the birth of her children, and without birth certificates, they faced a life of difficulties getting into formal education, getting a job, opening a bank account, registering for a mobile phone number, or obtaining a driver’s licence. They could not benefit from the national health insurance or vote in local or national elections. Unable to properly ‘identify’ themselves to the authorities, they were also more vulnerable to harassment by the police.
Despite residing in the country that their parents and their grandparents were born in, Batul and her children did not legally exist, that is until they received the paralegal support of Namati, a legal empowerment network that operates in Kenya, who helped Batul secure the paperwork she needed to go through the rigorous system of establishing her legal identity.