6 August 2015: Our lives are full of statistics. Sports are always fascinating in their detail. Did you know that basketball hall-of-famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points in his career?
What was the speed of Serena Williams’ fastest serve? A Google search reveals it to be 207 km/h.
We’re good at tracking data in sports, less so when it comes to human beings.
Ten years ago, Plan International launched a campaign called Universal Birth Registration. It tackled the important issue of birth registration.
We could track how many passes David Beckham was making per game, but counting the number of people in a community was eluding us.
We didn’t know how big the problem was because the data was wayward. If only civil registration was taken as seriously as basketball.
Proof of existence
We’ve always known about the need for birth registration – we started working on programmes as far back as 1998. Birth registration is the proof of existence that helps a child obtain a legal identity.
Imagine if Michael Jordan had shown up for his first day at Chicago Bulls and nobody knew who he was and he had no way to prove his name and age. He wouldn’t have got very far.
That’s what it’s like for unregistered people. It makes them effectively invisible because they can’t prove who they are.
This makes it difficult to go to school, get medical treatment, find a job, travel and more.
We had a lot of success with our Universal Birth Registration campaign, but eventually we came to realise that the game had changed. In 2009 our campaign transitioned to focus globally on programme and advocacy work, while campaigning continued on a national level in various countries.
The campaign was transformed into its current entity: Count Every Child. The name is self-explanatory and now we have the added bonus of more reliable data and research on which to hang our claims.
230 million children under the age of 5 have not had their births registered, according to Unicef data*. We’re seeing progress in the communities in which we work, but there’s still a long way to go.
It seems fitting that in 2015, the same year as the Millennium Development Goals reach the end of their life, we should be marking 10 years of Universal Birth Registration.
In that decade, Plan International, working in partnership with governments, development agencies and the private sector, helped register 40 million children and influenced laws in 10 countries so that 153 million more can enjoy their right to a birth certificate.
Birth registration gives those children more than a fighting chance of staying out of poverty while being able to reach their full potential.
Plan International runs Count Every Child activities in 36 programme countries and implements digital birth registration projects in 4 of those countries. But we’re only scraping the surface. The real progress is going to be made in the next 10 years.
Registering every child achievable
Registering every child is achievable. There is political will to do this. We have to take everything we’ve learnt in the last 10 years and put it all together.
Through our research and experience, we’ve learnt that taking on birth registration alone isn’t going to deliver the home run everyone working in development is after.
An efficient system for registering births should make use of all available technology. Mobile phones, for example, are great for registering births and getting the data into a digitised system.
This is one avenue we are exploring. But birth registration is just one part of a bigger system, one that registers all key life events, like births, deaths, marriages and divorce.
This complete civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system, helps get everyone in the picture while giving governments access to the most reliable data on their populations.
We want to keep the momentum of the last 10 years going and we hope to count on your support in the future so together we can Count Every Child.
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