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At a glance: Peru

Birth registration for indigenous children in Peru's Amazonian region

A civil registrar documents 200 births in his community

© UNICEF Perú/2010/Feuk
Indigenous children in the community of Santa Maria de Curaray in Peru’s Amazonian zone, after being registered.

Today UNICEF and the UN family celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. Here is a related story.

CANAMPA, Peru, 9 August 2010 – Fermin Tetsa Sanchick, 35, has worked as a civil registrar in the indigenous community of Canampa, in Peru’s Amazonas region, since 2000. He says that he is proud of his work, and that his greatest accomplishment is registering the births of 200 children among the Awajún indigenous group – his own community.

“If my job did not exist, these children would have never been registered,” said Mr. Sanchick, “since the regional government cannot come into our communities and we have a hard time going all the way to the municipality to register our newborn children. We cannot afford to pay the gas to make it to the cities. 

“On the other hand, my job helps register children, and they become citizens of the country who can register for school and have access to national health services.”

Social exclusion

In the past, the lack of registration of indigenous populations has worked as a mechanism of social exclusion. Civil registration centres were created in towns and cities, and birth registration has been difficult in more remote areas.

© UNICEF Perú/2010/Feuk
Civil registrar Fermin Testa Sanchick, 35, assists with birth registration in Peru’s Amazonian zone.

Seven per cent of children up to five years of age are unregistered in Peru, and in some regions non-registration is much higher.

According to the World Bank, a large percentage of undocumented children live in the indigenous communities of the Amazon forest and do not speak Spanish. Of Peru’s population of over 27 million people, about 4 million are indigenous and some 45,000 are from the Awajún community.

In order to raise understanding about Latin America’s indigenous peoples, UNICEF has launched a socio-linguistic map of indigenous communities in the region. The atlas allows readers to view the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of the region – essential factors to be considered by policy- and programme-makers who hope to tackle inequalities faced by indigenous groups.

Registering children

© UNICEF Perú/2010/Feuk
An indigenous civil servant registers children in the community of Santa Maria de Curaray, Peru.

Indigenous communities have also made strides against another former source of exclusion: the rejection of indigenous names by the civil registry. The majority of the names used by indigenous people in the past were based on the names of loggers, petroleum engineers and fishermen who frequently exploited indigenous territories.

In 2002, however, the government agreed to designate indigenous civil servants in several communities in the northern Amazon forest – including the Awajún – to register children with the goal of respecting indigenous names and traditions. Mr. Sanchick is one of these registrars.

Since 2007, UNICEF has worked with the regional government and the organization of indigenous communities in Peru’s Loreto region (known by its Spanish acronym, ORPIO) to create a network of civil registries for indigenous people in the most remote parts of the region, where the proportion of unregistered people is an estimated 26 per cent.

The national registry offices at both the regional and local levels have been closely involved in training civil servants, obtaining materials and monitoring activities within the framework of indigenous civil registration.

Return to traditional names

Mr. Sanchick not only registers children in his community but also aids in the creation of other indigenous registration centres.

© UNICEF Perú/2010/Feuk
Boys and girls in the community of Santa Maria de Curaray in Peru’s Amazonian zone.

“I learn fast,” said Mr. Sanchick, explaining that his professors had asked him to train several other civil servants in his native tongue. “Many of my classmates did not understand everything that the professor explained in class, and sometimes it was better to repeat the more complicated parts in Awajún.”

At the last training session, in conjunction with the national registry and UNICEF, Mr. Sanchick and his classmates learned ways to standardize and improve the birth registration process. They also discussed the problems of misspelled names and the importance of respecting traditional names.

“Historically, we were unable to give our children traditional indigenous names,” said Mr. Sanchick. “For example, my kids have names mixed with Spanish, something that I regret very much. Now I support the registry of indigenous names, which I did with my niece. Her name is Nugkui, which is a cultural name based on an indigenous entity who brings food and rain to the community.”



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