You wouldn’t necessarily think that something as simple as a birth certificate can keep a child safe from traffickers, but it can. In fact, birth registration is the front line of defense against child slavery around the world. And Plan International is making it their job to count every last child.
The over 40 million people — mostly children — in 32 countries who Plan has registered since beginning their project a few years ago now have access to health care, employment, and other government benefits that they lacked before. They also have a powerful tool to protect them from human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
One of the reasons traffickers more often target children from rural areas of developing countries is not because the children there are any more gullible or make better slaves than children from cities. It’s because these areas have lower birth registration rates. It’s far easier to snatch a child who doesn’t, according to the local government, “officially” exist.
Other benefits to having a birth certificate: in many countries, registered children enjoy greater access to education than unregistered ones, and education is a key component in protecting kids from exploitation now and throughout their lives. In addition, the ability to access health care or government benefits later in life will keep them out of desperation, which makes people vulnerable to human trafficking as adults. And upon having their own children, they will be more likely to get them registered, ending a multi-generational cycle of invisible children in much of the developing world.
So if birth registration is so beneficial, why wouldn’t a parent get a birth certificate for their child?
In some places, the cost of registration is more than a family can afford. In other areas, hospitals and registration sites may be far away from where the baby was born (at home) and inaccessible. Parents’ illiteracy, immigration status, and other factors pose further barriers to registration. In some conflict-torn areas, parents might be suspicious of identifying their child to the government. However, despite the host of barriers to registration, the benefits outweigh the challenges.
This increase in birth record registration will even help children who weren’t previously registered and have been trafficked find their way back home. While kids trafficked at a young age are often unable to identify their home town or region, they might remember a sibling’s name. If that sibling is registered, it helps the trafficked child discover other information about his identity, and hopefully eventually be reunited with his family.
Congratulations to Plan on their good work, and best of luck in the future.
Photo credit: dtcchc