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Birth Certificates: The Difference Between Education and Exploitation

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Nadya, age 8, is one of 50 million Indonesian children without a birth certificate.

At just 8 years old, Nadya* will soon be coming to a crossroads in her life. Today, she’s in the third grade and at the start of an education that could be life changing. But in just a few years, when she reaches middle school, her formal education may come to an abrupt and premature end.

That’s because Nadya’s birth was never registered with the Civil Registration Office in Indonesia, where she lives.

Nadya is an only child, and when she was born her parents didn’t know how vitally important a birth certificate would be for her. And even if they had, they lacked the resources to provide the documentation necessary for Nadya’s registration.

So, Nadya faces difficulty continuing her education and receiving other social services like medical treatment. And without a birth certificate, when she’s older she’ll find it just as hard to obtain a passport, a marriage certificate or even an ID card.

That could dramatically limit her opportunities to provide for herself or her family, and it would put her at great risk of being exploited and trafficked in the future.

Sadly, Nadya’s story is all too common. In Indonesia alone, there are 50 million children without birth certificates. Worldwide, the number of children under age 5 without birth certificates is a staggering 45 percent.

There are many reasons children don’t get registered. Families in rural areas often don’t understand the need for birth certificates. Severe poverty forces other families to choose between giving their children a legal identity or food to eat. And for some families, the problem preventing registration could be as simple as an error on the parents’ own marriage certificate — or that it’s from a religious authority rather than a legal one.

Thankfully for Nadya and children like her, there is hope. Making families aware of the importance of birth registrations is a big first step. And with support from the Guardian Angels community, resources are being made available and the word is being spread in countries all around the world.

Birth certificates are key to protecting the most fundamental rights of children. And by helping more families like Nadya’s register, you’re giving children like her a much better chance of growing up healthy, literate and safe. What a wonderful gift for a child in need.

*Not her real name