ASHA Kanongo has three children none of whom has a birth certificate. Ms Kanongo, a resident of Kishapu District, in Shinyanga Region, has no birth certificate either.
She cites the difficulty of acquiring the identification document as the culprit behind her failure to acquire a national travel document – a passport. She also knows that just like a couple of other government documents, it will take numerous trips to registration offices before she finally gets a passport, if at all she will ever get it.
There are many Tanzanians, just like Asha, whose children’s births are not regis tered. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 230 million children are born in a state of ‘invisibility’, meaning that their births are unregistered.
Every year, unregistered 50 million additional births occur globally. According to available statistics, 80 percent of unregistered births occur in Africa.
In most countries, children who are poor or live in rural areas are significantly less likely to have their births registered or to possess a birth certificate.
UNICEF estimates that in Tanzania, only three per cent of rural children and 22 per cent of urban children under the age of five have a birth certificate.
The national rate is 16 percent, meaning that Tanzania has one of the lowest rates of birth certification in Africa. It is a state which puts a nation in a difficult situation when the need for a passport arises.
To prove their nationality, applicants for a national travel document consequently have to swear a legal document known as an affidavit. The birth registration process established through the Births and Deaths Registration Act (2002) requires parents to register their child within 90 days of birth.
As a first step, they must obtain a ‘Notification of Birth’ from the hospital or health center in which the birth took place or, if the birth occurred at home, from either a ‘Village Executive’.
UNICEF recognizes children’s birth registration as a fundamental right of every child. It goes without saying therefore that registration of birth means better planning for services such as education for children.
This year’s registration drive that has kicked off in Geita and Shinyanga is spearheaded by Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA), UNICEF, VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) and Tigo, the second largest telecommunications firm in the country.
Through Tigo’s digital initiatives, the registration is online-driven; using a new version of mobile application developed by the telecom company, providing a more user-friendly interface and the ability to work across multiple network providers for the registrars, who will be using smartphones provided by Tigo.
Considering the dismal registration records especially in the rural areas, Tigo’s intervention is a muchsought- after shot in the arm towards the government’s target of registering about 720,000 children under five years in the two regions of Geita and Shinyanga.
Tigo’s goal is not only to support government efforts to improve communication in the country, but also facilitate its projects planning through a more precise number of the population.
There can be no doubt that a better registration of the under-five children in the regions will give the government a more exact way of delivering services and working out projects particularly meant for children.
Besides supporting the government in achieving its social priorities, Tigo seeks, through its CSR policy, to build the link between the society and the company by extending digital lifestyles to rural Tanzanians.
Many parts of the country have lagged behind due to poor communications, most important elements development.
“Through digital initiatives such as mobile birth registration, Tigo is seeking to build a strong societal ecosystem that brings the promise of technology in the communities where we operate”, explains Halima Okash, Tigo Corporate Social Responsibility Manager.
Through its social investment policy, Okash says, Tigo has championed many initiatives that include bridging mobile phone ownership gap among women, improving connectivity to public schools by providing access to reliable internet and now through enhancing birth registration by using mobile phone.
“Once again, we would like to affirm our commitment to support the government and other like-minded stakeholders in providing access to digital inclusion to the society for economic and social well-being,” she adds.