Delivering justice for children
Epworth, Zimbabwe: Sometimes,when you come from a country like Malawi where birth certificate hasn’t been an issue, it becomes hard to understand why Zimbabweans like Prompt Magadzire is happy that she has just obtained her certificate.Prompt’s parents come from Manicaland, over 200 kilometres east of the capital, Harare.Born in 1972 in the rural hills of Nyanga district,the father never seriously bothered to register her daughter’s birth.
The family migrated to Epworth, a suburb some 30 km from Harare where their daughter has gotten her certificate 18 years after birth. “When we came to Epworth nobody allowed us register her here but instead they said we go back to Manicaland and register the child,” said the father; “So when I thought of transport costs for me, the mother and the daughter, it was too much.” Magadzire isn’t alone in such a maze of -fulfilling paperwork, incurring costs and inadequately sensitized on the need to register their children.
The local media also notes the same. On January 18, this year, Talent Gumpo wrote in the on-line NewsDay Zimbabwe that “40 % of Matabeleland children do not have birth certificates.”
“They do not realise that that has long-term effects on the life of the child. There is need for awareness campaigns because there is an information gap. People need to know that a birth certificate is the most important document as it is a gateway to every other document that one must acquire.”
Prompt’s story vindicates the media report, as her father admitted that “I was stupid to think that she could go to O-level without having the birth certificate. Consequently, Prompt did not sit for her Grade Seven exams for lack of the certificate.”
Asked how she felt about her parents laxity, Prompt was prompt to say “I felt disappointed with my parents... I also wanted to be counted in the nation as a citizen.”
The father attributed the inaction to among others, poverty. The family runs a small rural kitchen and carpentry shop at Epworth min-market. He added that it also becomes complicated for children born outside the formal health system. “It is hard…because back in Manicaland where I come from, they will usually ask for a lot of things. For example, where is your nyamukuta Shona word for traditional midwife, or where is your mother or father?”
Magadzire further said, “Some of the mbuya nyamukuta are too old to give proper answers to the authorities, for example, asked on which date they delivered the child. If they do not answer properly, they are chased out of office. Once chased, it will be hard to convince them to go back to the District Commissioner’s office.”
No wonder Prompt and her parents are over the moon now. “Ndiri kufara kuti ndakawana birth certificate iyi ne ID yangu, (I feel happy because I have my birth certificate and my ID,” said Prompt.
It all started with an encounter between his father and an official from Justice for Children Trust (JCT) a local pro-justice NGO working in Zimbabwe on promoting social justice for the underprivileged. The father said “I asked [the JCT official], can it happen? They said, ‘surely, yes it can happen, no one can stop you from registering Prompt here in Harare when you have the backing of JCT’; therefore I got a letter from Prompt’s school.
I arrived at the Commissioner’s office when it was about to close and begged, can you help me please, he stamped my affidavit form. We went back and processed the birth certificate.” Prompt’s father narrated the climax of their quest for birth certificate. Now, all the four children in the family are registered, the parent included.