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The Birthday Girl

Mushella, 7, lives in Sierra Leone.
Mushella, 7, lives in Sierra Leone.
May 27, 2014
In Sierra Leone and across the world, Plan International is working to count every child.

Mushella stands with a tray of fresh pineapples and mangos as she helps her aunt get ready for the market.

The bustle and rush of city life in this cramped part of Freetown, Sierra Leone, is hidden by Mushella’s calm expression. Her mind could be on her homework – she is an enthusiastic student and is currently attending her second class in a Plan-sponsored school.

Perhaps, though, she is thinking about her birthday. Indeed, Mushella is a lucky girl, not just because she comes from a loving family or because she has been afforded the opportunity to attend school, but because she knows her birth date.

Incredibly, more than 66 percent of all rural children and 40 percent of all urban children in Sierra Leone do not have their births registered. The reasons can be diverse – cost, bureaucracy, lack of awareness. The results are stark.

Birth registration is a fundamental step in ensuring the rights of a child. A birth certificate is proof of identity and legal citizenship. With one, you can vote, access health and welfare support, get legal aid, go to school, and much more. Without one, none of these things are possible.

Globally, Plan’s Count Every Child campaign is making huge inroads in this area. Since 2005, Plan has helped register 40 million children around the world and influence laws in 10 countries so that 153 million can enjoy the rights that come with a birth certificate.

Happy birthday, Mushella.

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