Birth Registration Day helps ensure basic human rights in Bangladesh
By Iftikhar Ahmed Chowdhury
DHAKA, Bangladesh, 9 July 2007 – Last week the Government of Bangladesh officially observed national Birth Registration Day in order to highlight the importance of birth certificates for adults and children alike. A celebratory registration event – organized by the Local Government Division Ministry and others with support from UNICEF – was held at Osmani Memorial Hall in Dhaka on 3 July.
“A birth certificate is not only a necessary document to access basic services, but it is central to a child’s well-being and safety,” said Shabnam Shahana, one of the parents who had just registered her newborn daughter, Nathia.
Mafruza Sultana, 30, said that until recently she hadn’t felt it was necessary to have a birth certificate. But due to her job as a Registration Assistant she felt that she should practice what she preached. Ms. Sultana was among 10 adults and children who received their birth certificates during the event.
Bangladesh recently made possession of a birth certificate mandatory in order to access certain public services such as education and immunization, and to exercise the right to vote. As such, birth registration will ensure fundamental rights for many Bangladeshi people.
The government is offering free birth registration until July 2008.
“We need to explain loudly and widely that birth registration is free until mid-2008,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Bangladesh Rosella Morelli, who went on to describe registration as an inherent human right and the first legal step towards ensuring one’s name and nationality.
Need for 'a social movement'
The present rate of birth registration in Bangladesh is between 7 and 10 per cent. With the help of partners such as UNICEF and the non-governmental organization Plan Bangladesh, the government is endeavouring to boost the figure substantially.
Local Government and Rural Development Adviser Mohammed Anwarul Iqbal emphasized the role of media as well as teachers and religious leaders in spreading the message about birth registration, especially in rural areas. He stressed the importance of support from donors, NGOs and all other development partners.
“We need to wage a social movement to achieve our goal,” said Mr. Iqbal, “Luckily, we are not alone.”