|© UNICEF Senegal/2005/Pittenger|
|Rapper Didier Awadi with a student in Dakar, Senegal.|
DAKAR, Senegal, 22 February 2005 - There’s an unusual sight in Ms. Ndiaye’s elementary school class in Dakar, Senegal, today. Didier Awadi, a Senegalese rapper, points to the words carefully written on the blackboard, and encourages the students to shout them out.
“Birth registration,” Awadi raps in French. “A child’s right, on starting out in life.” The class yells enthusiastically in response: “Birth registration!”
Having joined forces to promote birth registration in sub-saharan Africa, UNICEF, along with the development agencies Plan and The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are working with artists such as Awadi to reach out to children and their parents.
“It was last year when I learned that nearly 70 per cent of kids in Sub-Saharan Africa are not registered,” Awadi says. “This is a real problem, because without birth registration there is no school, and later in life there is no work, there is no real life. And most parents don’t know that.”
|© UNICEF Senegal/2005/Pittenger|
|Rapper Didier Awadi in a classroom in Senegal during the recording of the birth registration song.|
Only one out of every three children in West and Central Africa is registered at birth, a rate lower than that of any other region.
The importance of birth registration
Birth registration means more than exercising one’s right to an identity and a nationality. It can mean the difference between being forced into marriage at an early age – and not. It can mean the difference between becoming a child soldier – and not. It is a fundamental element of the protective environment – protecting children from violence, from exploitation, from child labour. And it also opens up a world of possibilities to children as they grow, allowing them to get an education, to access health services, to open a bank account, to get a passport, to vote.
The barriers to birth registration for parents in this part of the world include high costs, bureaucracy, and the difficulties involved in travelling to far-away registration facilities. Lack of awareness is one of the most important hurdles, and UNICEF, PLAN and UNFPA are working to spread information on the issue.
“The population of West and Central Africa is young,” says the UNICEF Regional Advisor for Integrated Early Childhood Development, Eveline Pressoir. “We need to communicate with the young people, because we need not only to improve the situation of birth registration in the present, but also to ensure the future. Artists like Didier Awadi have access to the young; they are the ones who really know how to talk to the youth and to the children.”
Awadi’s rap song is one of a series of innovative ways in which UNICEF, PLAN and UNFPA are working with artists to spread the word about birth registration. Another involves the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), from 28 February to 5 March 2005. At the children’s version of the festival, called FESPACO Junior, actors, filmmakers and journalists will promote birth registration.
Awadi agrees that art is an important medium for promoting birth registration. “With art, with music, you come into peoples’ houses and it can be heard by parents, by kids,” he says. “When kids are listening to music, others are obliged to hear. Whether they want to or not, they will listen to the message.”
And the message is clear, as in the words of Awadi’s song: “Birth registration… a child’s right, on starting out in life.”