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THE RIGHT TO BE REGISTERED

Al-Ahram - October 1, 2010

An international conference puts a premium on birth certificates

by Reem Leila

Developing countries are working to create their own national poverty eradication strategies based on local needs and priorities. All nations are attempting to reach effective solutions to enable them to contact greater numbers of poor people, especially women and children, in order to expand access to productive assets and economic opportunities, and to link poverty programmes with the international economic and financial policies of countries. But this will never take place unless the numbers of poor people are properly calculated and their identities known.

On 28 September, Minister of State for Family and Population Mushira Khattab and Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities Mara Carfagna inaugurated the international conference "The Right to Identity". The event was organised in coordination with the Egyptian National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) and Italy to celebrate the results achieved by the joint programme "Poverty Alleviation: legal rights for children, women and girls".

The project which was launched three years ago, has been implemented in seven governorates in Upper Egypt, Giza, Helwan, 6 October, Beni Sweif, Minya, Sohag and Qena. It supports the birth registration as a viable first step for the realisation of fundamental rights and as a way out of poverty. To date, 66,531 identity cards, 45,634 birth certificates and 16,482 documents for unregistered individuals have been issued, while 8,704 people have been the beneficiaries of literacy classes, 10,999 people the beneficiaries of loans for the creation of new job opportunities, and 16,777 have received healthcare.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the right to be registered at birth. The main aim of the conference is to develop a regional model for the civil registration system. According to Carfagna, the right to registration at birth is a proclaimed human right, which virtually every state in the world has endorsed through its ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. "A human being who is not registered at birth does not exist, as if it has never been born. Unregistered subjects don't have any rights or citizenship. They can't go to school or obtain essential services," stated Carfagna while addressing the conference.

Carfagna said the number of unregistered people is staggering and in most cases these people are women, girls and adolescents. In Egypt, the percentage of unregistered citizens is three per cent.

The number of children living in income-poor households is increasing, causing poorer living conditions and a greater deprivation of their rights as children, said the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in a recent report. The report said 23 per cent of children under 15 live on less than $1 a day. Around five million children were deprived of appropriate housing, including shelter, water and sanitation standards, and 1.6 million under five experienced health and food deprivation.

"It's important to look at how poverty affects children's lives and how we can address it. A child who lives in poverty rarely gets a second chance at education or a healthy start in life," said Khattab.

Concerning respect for human dignity, equality among human beings and acknowledging their existence, the Girls Education Initiative was implemented by the NCCM under the auspices of Mrs Suzanne Mubarak. Khattab pointed out that more than 1,200 schools in the most deprived areas have been built. "The initiative provided equal opportunities to education for girls and boys as well as an opportunity for quality education, like that provided in urban communities," stated Khattab.

The schools, on the other hand, provided equal opportunity to girls to enhance their capabilities and enable them to participate in improving their societies while offering them opportunities for social mobility regardless of the economic and social standard of their families. "The right to education is the gateway to obtain all rights and the basic pillar to social mobility. This is how it should be," Khattab said. "The government must take children into consideration when it comes to formulating policies aimed at ending poverty. Investing in the nation's children can produce good results. Education will get these children out of poverty," Khattab added.

The poverty rate among children in rural areas was more than double that in urban areas, and much higher in Upper Egypt than in Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt had the highest incidence of poverty among children estimated at 45.3 per cent. Girls and boys were equally vulnerable to poverty and deprivation of rights, but girls in rural areas were the least likely to attend school or complete their education, thus increasing the likelihood of being poor in adulthood.

Similarly, great efforts have been exerted in combating Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), early marriages, trafficking in children, exploitation of children in the labour market and street children. These efforts, according to Khattab, stem from the desire to provide every citizen with full and undiminished rights as well as achieving social justice and equal opportunity "for all sons and daughters of Egypt."

This long-standing partnership, which has supported the empowerment of the poorest among the poor and the promotion of their rights, has helped in achieving impressive progress in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The success of such a model has been determined by the existence of a common understanding which considers poverty a form of deprivation and a denial of human rights. According to Carfagna, among the most successful programmes are the FGM-Free Village Model and the Think Twice programmes which, through a widespread social marketing communication campaign, have empowered thousands of children and young people in Egypt.

At a press conference, Italian General Director for International Cooperation Elisabetta Belloni announced the funding of a new programme to support the empowerment of families and the protection of children's rights in Fayoum governorate.

The conference was also attended by Health Minister Hatem El-Gabali, Italian Ambassador to Egypt Claudio Pacifico, World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti David Craig, Minister of Social Solidarity Ali Meselhi, Minister of Education Ahmed Zaki Badr and several governors.





Altri articoli su:
[ Africa ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ] [ Egitto ] [ Islam e democrazia ] [ Medio Oriente ] [ Moushira Khattab ]

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