Nicaragua: Proof of existence
From World Vision, by Marcia Morales:
“Like many young children, Alison Suárez, 7, was estatic when the time finally came for her to start elementary school. Her joy, however, was short-lived: she was not able to enroll for classes because she didn’t have a birth certificate.
It wasn’t until her mother, Aura Lidia, tried to register her for classes that she realized Alison basically didn’t exist in the eyes of the government because she didn’t have a birth certificate.
When Aura learned that without this document, her daughter wouldn’t be able to go to school, get legally married, travel, vote, or even hold a decent job, she grew increasingly concerned.
Alison is not alone.
According to reports from the United Nations Children’s Fund, 19 percent of Nicaraguan children under 5 (an estimated10 percent across Latin America) do not have birth certificates.
Though it is free to register children in Nicaragua during their first year of life, parents must travel to a registration center.
After the first year, registration must be completed with the help of a lawyer and costs, on average, $100.
Like many parents who live in poverty in rural Nicaragua, Aura didn’t have the resources to make the 25-mile trek to the nearest city to register her child.
Because Alison is a sponsored child, Aura asked World Vision for help.
World Vision helped defray the legal fees, and within a month, Alison had her birth certificate and was able to start school. Today, she is one of the top students in her first-grade class.
The birth certificate problem is twofold.
First, many parents don’t understand their importance of the document. Second, for many families it is difficult to find the necessary financial resources to register their child.
A broad educational advocacy campaign called My Name is Important is under way in all communities with sponsorship programs in Nicaragua. The goal is to educate parents about why birth certificates are crucial to their child’s future success and opportunities.
World Vision also coordinates with local partners to bring mobile registration opportunities to communities.
“The idea [is] to bring the registration service directly to people, so they do not need to go to the urban areas and spend money,” explains Paola Bonilla, World Vision Nicaragua’s advocacy promoter.
To date, the organization has helped register 2,224 children in the nation.”
Marcia Morales is a World Vision communications officer in Nicaragua.