No single Child in Kvemo Karli, Georgia without birth registration
By Maya Kurtsikidze, UNICEF Georgia
“I did not think this was so important” said 42 year old Sarkhan Alakhverdiev about birth registration. His 3 year old daughter Sadat is one of many children in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia whose birth has not yet been registered.
Sarkhan and his family live in Kizilajlo, a large village with 8,500 residents which is located within one hour drive from the capital city Tbilisi. The village, like the majority of the Kvemo Kartli region, is mostly inhabited by ethnic Azeris.
Sarkhan is a former musician and now he works assembling furniture to support his family. Sarkhan has copies of all his registration documents as he often travels to Azerbaijan for business. Sarkhan’s wife gave birth to little Sadat at home, as do many other women in the region. Frequent home deliveries are among the reasons why 22 per cent of children in the region are left without birth registration.
A UNICEF commissioned survey revealed that only 78 per cent of children in Kvemo Kartli are registered at birth, which is significantly lower than the national coverage of birth registration in Georgia, which stands at 92 per cent. These are children who do not exist, children who cannot enjoy education, medical assistance and all their other rights - children with no present and no future.
UNICEF, the Civil Registry Agency of Georgia and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees joined their efforts to help the children in Kvemo Kartli to reclaim their rights and their future. The new project on birth registration in Kvemo Kartli commenced in July and will last for 10 months.
Ramal and Sianan Tanagrievs will also be among those children who will obtain birth registration certificates in the near future. Ramal is 7 and Sianan is 6 years old. The boys speak neither Georgian nor Russian. They only know the Azeri language and we spoke with the boys only with the help of their mother Olga. We learned that Sianan likes airplanes and he is looking forward to going to school in September. However, Sianan’s dream may not come true because without birth registration he will be denied access to schooling and to his basic right to education.
Sianan was also born at home 6 years ago. Her mother Olga has Russian citizenship and when moving from Russia to Georgia a few years ago she lost her passport. She had to go to another area to obtain the Georgian passport and to deal with local bureaucracy. She could not afford it as the family experienced serious economic difficulties.
The non-existence of personal identification documents of parents is also an important impediment for the lack of registration of children in Kvemo Kartli. Without a personal identification document, a parent cannot address an authorized agency for the registration of his or her child’s birth.
The UNICEF project will also help Olga Kurbanova to obtain her personal identification documents and to register the birth of Sianan. It means that Sianan will be able to go to school in September and to make his dream come true.
“Thank you so much for your help”, said Olga. “I will also be able to use the State medical facilities for my kids. So far I have only been addressing the local doctor in our village,” she added.
Nine and eight year old Sekhvardin and Royal Aliyevs are also unable to go to a doctor when they are ill. In addition, neither of the two children has ever been vaccinated. They do not go to school as they do not have birth registration certificates. Both, Sekhvardin and Royal live with their grandparents, 82 year old Sekvardin and Piruza. Their father is currently in prison and their mother disappeared three years ago.
Poverty is present everywhere when you enter the Aliyevs home. It is so visible that the family faces severe economic difficulties. We learned that the children are not recipients of any of the government’s social services they are entitled to. Without registration the children do not exist and the social benefits are not available as well.
“I do not know what is needed to register the birth of my grandchildren”, said elderly Sekhvardin, “I do not know how to collect the necessary documents. It may cost money as well which is something I do not have”, complained Sekhvardin to us.
“I take the kids to school sometimes” said Piruza Aliyeva, “but the school principal refuses to accept the boys without birth registration. What we can do, we come back home again”, added Piruza.
Sekhvardin and Royal cannot write or read. The boys are reserved and clearly lack social skills. We tried to talk with them to learn what they think but faced the same problem such as the language barrier. They understand neither Georgian nor Russian. Even with their grandparents we managed to speak only with some sort of broken Russian. Finally, with the aid of a translator, we learned that little Sekhvardin wants to become a policeman, and that Royal enjoys football. The boys said goodbye to us and we left with a hope that little Sekhvardin and Royal would get their birth certificates soon and would be able to attend school.
The language barrier is a serious obstacle for the local population to receive necessary information and needed support from the State. The Azeri population in Kvemo Kartli only speaks the local language and failure to learn the state language leaves these groups out of the social-economic life of the country. They have limited access to quality education and little possibility to participate into the ongoing reforms.
The Kizilajlo governor Mutu Bozduev realizes the problem and believes that the local population now better understands the importance of learning Georgian, the official State language. “We did not have the State as such before”, he said, ”we are building it now. That is why we had the problem of birth registration as well. I am sure that soon we will not have unregistered children in our village”, said Bozduev.
The project will help them in reaching this goal as it aims to identify and to register all of the unregistered children in Kvemo Kartli; to inform the people about the importance of birth registration; and to provide legal consultation for the registration process.
It means that Sadat, Sianan, Ramal, Sekvardin, Royal and many other children like them in the Kvemo Kartli region will soon be able to go to school and to enjoy their rights. It also means that their dreams will have a greater chance of coming true.