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Breaking the Chains of Poverty Through Birth Registration

A young girl in Indonesia shows her birth certificate.
A young girl in Indonesia shows her birth certificate.
May 27, 2014
Plan International USA is working to provide an easier path to birth registration in Indonesia.

Tri attends an informal school in Jakarta, Indonesia and works as a street singer earning about $2 a day. But, in the eyes of the government, he is all but invisible.

The 15-year-old does not have a birth certificate, which means he doesn’t have access to a formal education or basic health care. A passport, the ability to register for marriage, and the right to vote are out of reach.

“My parents have divorced,” he said. “My father is busy at work and he has no time to register for my birth certificate. He doesn’t even understand its importance.”

The process of obtaining one can be a bureaucratic nightmare.

Ani, 15, doesn’t know where her father is. To register, she needs her father’s ID card, her parents’ marriage certificate, and a family card. She is frustrated that she isn’t an official citizen of her country.

For children like Tri and Ani, who live in the slums of Indonesian cities, opportunities are few and far between. Some collect plastic bottles and sort through trash; others play the banjo on local buses for spare change.

Last year, as part of a larger research effort, Plan International surveyed five slums in Jakarta and found that more than 60 percent of parents had never even tried to register their children. Across Indonesia, Plan estimates that as many as 3 million children every year join the 30 to 35 million in total who are unregistered.

These numbers are not surprising, considering the daunting process of obtaining a birth certificate. Applicants like Tri or Ani must include: Birth Notification, a Letter of Birth Report from the Village Head, Family Card or Letter of Domicile Notification, and Parents’ Marriage/Divorce Certificate.

Plan’s survey found only 54 percent of respondents had a birth notification for their children. The majority, 84 percent, did not have a letter of birth report from their village head. Only around half had a Family Card/Letter of Domicile, and only 40 percent of respondents had a marriage certificate issued by the Civil Registration Office.

But, with your help, Plan has set out to protect children like Tri and Ani.

Since 2012, Plan International has run a program through its Count Every Child initiative for street children in Jakarta. This program is aimed at raising awareness among street children and their families on the importance of birth registration, and to help the government provide easily accessible birth registration.

Plan has already had some success. Last year the Indonesian Parliament changed the law to make registering births simpler and cheaper, scrapping fees and also removing the requirement that the certificate had to be issued where the birth took place. Already, more than a thousand children have registered using the simplified procedure.

These changes demonstrate what can be achieved by bringing together partners from civil society, the corporate sector, the government, and communities to help excluded children.

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