Birth registration theme: 50 million born without legal documents in 2002. A continent celebrates its children; dozens of countries carry out events
NEW YORK, 16 June 2003 - UNICEF offices in dozens of countries are set to celebrate the Day of the African Child today, calling for the need to ensure all children are registered at birth.
In 2002, 50 million newborns were denied their right to a legal identity. Without a birth certificate, children have no official identity, no recognized name and no nationality. In later life, the unregistered child may be unable to apply for a passport or formal job, open a bank account, get a marriage licence, stand for elective office or vote.
In 2002, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that birth registration is one of the most important pieces of paper a person will ever own. "If we do not get it right from the start and register babies, it is an up-hill battle from there on. Unregistered children lack the most basic protection against abuse and exploitation and become a more attractive commodity to a child trafficker, illegal adoption rings, and others who seek to take advantage of their non-status," she added.
In honour of the Day of the African Child, UNICEF offices are coordinating dozens of events. The day marks a 1976 march in in Soweto South Africa, when thousands of black school children took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down; and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.
To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on 16 June every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity. The Day also draws attention to the lives of African children today.
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