For many of us living in the U.S., a birth certificate is something we have always had. Our parents simply filled out a few forms after our birth, effectively registering us as citizens in this country.
Birth registration provides proof of existence in any society and is one of the most important identity documents in many countries. It is used to apply for a passport, register for school, receive immunizations, and gain legal protection. It also shows proof of age, which can protect children from trafficking, child marriage, and child labor.
But without a birth certificate, a person is essentially invisible. She is denied the basic human rights to which every person on this planet should have access. This is an unfortunate reality for millions of people on our planet, including 230 million boys and girls under the age of 5, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Here at Plan International USA, we are trying to ensure that every child receives a birth certificate. A birth certificate is more than a legal document. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, it is “a key that opens the door to rights and benefits of citizenship.”
Plan has been working to promote birth registration since 1998 across Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Its first global campaign – in support of Universal Birth Registration – was launched in 2005 and aimed to promote birth registration at a grassroots level, support governments to increase the issuing of birth certificates, and explain the importance of birth registration to governments. The campaign became known as “Count Every Child” in 2009 and has been active in 36 developing countries around the world. For the past 10 years, Plan has helped to register 40 million children and change laws in 10 countries so an additional 153 million more people can be registered.
This is substantial progress, but there are still millions of people on this planet who lack basic rights because they are not registered at birth.
The Youth Advisory Board at Plan has been working for the past few months to re-launch the Count Every Child campaign through the “Leave Your Mark” activity and petition. We are asking people from all over the country to show their support for universal birth registration by signing our online petition and collecting 10,000 fingerprints on the “leave your mark” postcards. The signatures and postcards will be sent to the U.S. Special Coordinator at the United Nations for the post-2015 Development Agenda.
We are urging governments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which cover a range of issues including ending poverty, eliminating hunger, and combating climate change. We hope to focus in particular on Sustainable Development Goal 16.9, which states that “by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.”
Please join us as we raise our voices and leave your mark for universal birth registration across the world so that every child can be counted and have access to basic human rights!