The films show eleven year-old Samira who dreams of being a doctor and twelve year old Salif who would like to be a club football player like Samuel E’to. Each knows the dream unlikely to come true because neither has a birth certificate.
Speaking to an audience which included the Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity, as well as the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, Joan French, UNICEF representative in Burkina Faso, said the birth registration figures for the West and Central Africa region were extremely disturbing.
“Only one child out of every three in the sub-region is registered”, French said. “In other words, two out of three, or 15 million children have no civil status whatsoever.”
French said UNICEF, Plan and UNFPA, had been jointly battling the problem of birth registration in the region since 2003, and in some countries remarkable progress had been made, following public awareness campaigns and a reform of the birth registration system. In Ghana, from 52 per cent in 2000, 78 per cent of births were registered by 2004. Similarly, Senegal registered 78 per cent of births in 2004, up from 60 per cent in 2000.
“However”, French continued, “the case is far different in Burkina Faso, where only 33 per cent of children were registered at birth, far from the goal of 75 per cent by 2009. It is our hope that Burkina and all countries in the region will not only reach but surpass that goal.”
Speaking on the occasion, Idrissa Ouédraogo said he believed that African film directors sometimes create too elitist a body of work. “We don’t take into consideration the local realities in which our people live, voiceless, because they have not been registered. A nation can only be built by all its people. Governments must act so that all children have birth certificates: it is the beginning of the beginning of everything.” With his film, he added, “I am trying modestly to contribute to the fight.”
French challenged the gathered producers, directors, cinematographers, and distributors: “Until now the subject of birth registration has been almost absent from your films. It deserves all your attention. Help us to show these spots; let them be inspiration for your own productions.”
She reminded the audience of the reality facing so many children in the region: "Children not registered at birth have no right to a nationality; they cannot therefore carry an identity card or a passport; they are denied health services; at school, they cannot sit for exams; they cannot be adopted; they are not protected against abuse or exploitation as regards work, recruitment into armed groups, or trafficking."
“The children of Africa are counting on you to spread the word,” she concluded. “A birth certificate is a passport for life.”
FESPACO, Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou, celebrating it’s 20th edition in 2007, is an important partner for UNICEF. The festival was inaugurated in 1969 and takes place every two years. It is the largest and most important film festival in Africa, screening 218 films during the week of February 24 through March 3, 2007. See: http://www.fespaco.bf/
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. More information on UNFPA can be found at: http://www.unfpa.org/
Plan Burkina is the local arm of Plan International. Plan works worldwide to achieve lasting improvements for children living in poverty in developing countries. Plan is a humanitarian child-centred organisation working in 46 developing countries, with families and their communities. Founded over 60 years ago, Plan has no religious, political or governmental affiliation. See: http://www.plan-international.org/
UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. Go to www.unicef.org, for further information.
For more information, please contact:
Chantal Lorho, Communication Officer, UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office: Tel + (221) 450 58 16, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Modeste Yaméogo, Communication Officer, UNICEF Burkina Faso: Tel + 226 76 63 63 08, E-mail :email@example.com