Wandering on the brink of statelessness

Involved alumni:

The challenge that the project addresses

According to the national statistics recently published by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, 2.4 million children under the age of 17 do not have birth certificates. Forty-six percent of that figure consists of children living in rural areas. One of the major causes of this hurdle are stringent policy requirements that are not in line with international human rights standards. Since undocumented children are neither foreigners nor citizens for their lack of key proof needed to establish a nationality; they have limitations in accessing social and economic rights, for instance, their right to health and education. Wandering on the brink of statelessness initiative seeks to assist 100 indigent children to acquire birth certificates and lobby for policy reform to ensure that the right to identity and nationality is a reality to all children in Zimbabwe.

What is your project doing to respond to this challenge?

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is a leading not-for-profit social justice organisation in the country. For that reason, it has become the first port of call in matters of birth certificates. I have partnered with ZLHR to address the challenge in a three staged approach. In the first stage, the project identified 100 birth certificate applicants (orphans and children) from the organisation’s database in need of money to pay for the issuance of their birth confirmation records, late birth certificate fines and to carter for their travelling expenses to their districts of birth where they are legally required to submit their birth certificate applications. The second stage of the project will involve; lobbying for outlawing the requirement that birth certificate applicants must return to their districts of birth to apply for birth certificates as well as drafting policy briefs on the need for the adoption of an online birth certificate application system. The final stage will involve engaging key government stakeholders involved in the issuance of identity documents.

The first stage of the project targets (targeted) 100 orphans and children between the age of 6-17 who had been struggling to acquire birth certificates for over a period of one year. This selection criteria was motivated by the fact that a birth certificate is a key requirement for a child to register for public examinations and a lack of that crucial document jeopardises the child’s future and exposes them to multiplicity of human rights abuses. The second and last stage of the project strives to ease the birth certificate application process to make the right to identity a reality to all Zimbabweans.

Describe the project's impact

Of the 48 children who have been assisted to acquire birth certificates so far, 25 of them had dropped out of school as they were barred from writing their national grade seven and ordinary level (secondary school) examinations. Twenty-three of the beneficiaries are orphans who needed money to travel to their districts of birth and apply for birth certificates. All assisted children and orphans are now in a position to register in school and write national examinations without hindrances which were imposed by their lack of birth certificates. They are now entitled to social grants, they can apply for national identity cards and passports. Their vulnerability to child labour has been diminished; when in conflict with the law, they will be given treatment applicable to their age since their age can be easily proved by producing a birth certificate.

Through the sponsorship of Wells Mountain Initiative (WMI) Community Development Grant, we have assisted 48 orphans and children to acquire birth certificates. However, the targeted number of beneficiaries is 100. From the R20 000 offered by Canon Collins Trust, approximately R12 000 will be used to pay for the issuance of birth confirmation records, payment of late birth certificate application fines and travelling costs for 52 indigent orphans and children between the age of 6-17 who have been struggling to acquire birth certificates for over a period of one year. The balance of R8 000 will be used for lobbying, drafting policy briefs and in engagement meetings with relevant stakeholders.