LACK OF BIRTH CERTIFICATES EXPOSES GIRLS TO EARLY MARRIAGE.

SHANGOMBO DISTRICT, ZAMBIA - During a recent visit to Imusho in Shangombo district, around a dozen pregnant girls sit on narrow benches in a small wooden building, sheltering from the sun while they sit and chat

As Executive Director, Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC and Child Rights Activist I had a chance to talk to girls about how to look after them while they are pregnant, l stresses something important they should do for their babies once they are born: Register their births and get a birth certificate.

In Imusho, Shangombo district, Zambia simply getting a birth certificate is almost impossible in a country with political and economic stability.

Without documentation to serve as proof of age, parentage and identity, children cannot access basic services like healthcare, education and social security. And the lack of legal registration puts children - especially girls - at greater risk of early or forced marriage, or sexual abuse.

The lack of a birth certificate has a "significant impact on the lives of girls," In particular, it affects "their rights to inheritance and the prevention of and protection from early marriage [which] is a form of sexual and gender-based violence that has a considerable impact on the lives and well-being of girls, curbing their access to education, presenting risks to sexual and reproductive health and more."

Many girls in Western, Zambia marry before age 18. After they get married, girls often quit school and get pregnant, which can present a significant health risk. Young brides are also more likely to suffer abuse.

Without birth certificates to prove their legal age, girls in Shangombo district cannot attend school, making them more vulnerable to arranged early marriage, which families may see as the only way to provide for their daughters.

"Early marriage has grave physical, psychosocial and socioeconomic consequences in the lives of girls, including in terms of risks during pregnancy and birth,"

By law, each newborn should get a birth certificate for free within the first days of their birth; poor families living in remote areas find it hard to get to urban centers to register their children. Those who finally make it after the three-month deadline are charged, an impossible amount for many.

For the past few years, Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC have been working on efforts to register births. About 1, 060 children have been registered for birth certificates in Mawawa, Kasima, and Kannde, Mongu district of Western Province, there was no information to get a birth certificate. "Women had to go more than 12 miles (20km) just to attempt to register their babies.

Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC is working day and night to put birth registration centers (mobile birth registration points) in rural/remote districts of Western, Zambia, in maternity hospitals across the province, mainly by making hospitals and health clinics responsible for registering a birth, rather than expecting parents to travel long distances and wait hours in line to register their babies in the days after the birth are born.

At the birth registration centers, every child born there will be automatically registered, the registration will be free. At the end of each week the forms will be taken to the authorities to sign."

The birth registration centers will be quicker, easier registration service to get birth certificates newborn babies.

This was noted during the birth certificate distribution at Mawawa, Kasima, and Kannde where a very good number of parents turned up to collect birth certificates for their children.

Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC aim is to ensure that every child in Western province, Zambia has a birth certificate. Birth registration is very important and as Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC see exercise importance and document is a very critical that every child should have.

Birth registration exercise is still slow because community members are ignorant about the Birth registration document, People have been very ignorant about the importance of the birth certificates for their children. Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC aim to sensitize a very good number of people.

Maboshe Memorial Centre - MMC works to complimenting Governments efforts on child protection issues to conduct the birth registration exercise by training care givers who sensitized community members about the importance of a child having a birth certificate.

The exercises are important tool because it has been able to help in some cases of child protection issues. "When a child is registered to have a birth certificate, he or she has a right to be protected from any injustices. A good example of the child protection cases are cases of early marriages, one has to prove whether the person involved in the early marriage case is a child or not.

Issued by the Maboshe Memorial Centre (MMC) Media Team

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