Call to prioritize children in the national birth registration campaign
Dhaka 3 July 2008: Today, for the second time, Bangladesh observed national Birth Registration Day, calling for the prioritization of children in the national birth registration campaign and for a systematic registration of children at birth.
The Government of Bangladesh declared 3 July as Birth Registration Day to highlight the importance of birth registration for every child and adult in the country. This is part of the national strategy to achieve Universal Birth Registration in line with the Births and Deaths Registration Act which entered into force in 2006.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), only one out of 10 children under 5 had been registered in 2006. Recent report from the Local Government Division shows that 40 % of the total population had received a birth certificate by the end of March 2008. The Government’s objective is to lift this figure substantially, with support from development partners such as UNICEF and Plan Bangladesh.
Focusing on the theme of Birth Registration Day at Osmani Memorial Hall, Mr. Anwarul Iqbal, Adviser, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, said: “A birth certificate serves as a legal age verification document, acknowledging the individual’s existence and status before the law, thus realizing every person’s right to an identity. This birth registration certificate will enhance our vigilance to stop child trafficking, child marriage and abuse of children.”
The Births and Deaths Registration Act provided for free birth registration of all persons born in Bangladesh up to 2 July 2008. According to the Act, birth certificates will be compulsory to obtain access to sixteen essential services such as issuance of passports, marriage registration and admission to educational institutions etc.
“Every child has a right to a name and identity. Birth certificates safeguard this right. With a birth certificate, a child will be less easily trafficked or exploited,” said David Bassiouni, Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh. “This year UNICEF is particularly focusing on vulnerable children such as children living on the streets, children working, children of sex workers, indigenous children and refugee children as they are more likely to be missed out. The absence of a birth certificate puts them at greater risk of discrimination, abuse and neglect” he said. Highlighting the importance of the birth certificate, he stressed the need for extension of free registration and said “It is important to extend the deadline of free registration at least till December 2009 to ensure birth registration of all citizens who are still left out”.
UNICEF also encouraged the Government to accept the National Identity Card as equivalent to a birth certificate for adults. This would help reduce the cost involved in birth registration of adults as well as avoid duplication of work. National ID cards are currently being issued by Election Commission in addition to the voter registration process.
The Birth Registration day observance ceremony at the capital was chaired by the Secretary, Local Government Division Mr. Sheikh Khurshid Alam and attended by Mr. Saiful Islam, Representative form Plan Bangladesh and Mr. AKM Saiful Islam Chowdhury, Joint Secretary and Project Director of the Birth and Death Registration project. The ceremony ended with distribution of certificates to hard to reach children and colourful cultural programme of children organised by Bangladesh Shishu Academy and Plan Bangladesh.
The Birth Registration project is supported by UNICEF with funding from the Government of the Netherlands and the European Commission.
The day was also observed in all divisions and districts of the country through rallies, discussions, cultural programmes, art competition for children and distribution of birth certificates by actors dressed as the Meena animation character.
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