Registering a child in Angola is sometimes a real challenge. The lack of information, the weaknesses of the services and the bureaucracy of the system are among the main constraints. These problems caught the attention of a group of 40 students of Law at the Mandume Ya Ndemufayo Public University who decided to create what they called ‘Citizens Information Posts’ in Lubango, capital of Huila, one of the eighteen provinces of Angola.
On a visit to the information post located at the Commander Cowboy neighborhood, which is about 5 kilometers from Lubango city center, we find that young people arrive early in the morning with the organization of necessary materials as their first task. Then, equipped with a laptop and printed information material, they receive all the people who come with many questions. “The most difficult days are those when the registration is made”, says Marina Mateus, 24, about the days when workers from the Registry Office arrive to take documentation to be certified by the Civil Registrar.
Marina, while finishing her Law studies, is part of this group of young people since November 2015. She decided to join the project because she knew she would be working with the community to help local people to have access to information about laws and much more.
“Many people want to know what they have to do to get the birth registration, which formalities must follow when a child is not registered and is an orphan… These are the things most people ask”, says Marina. According to the General Census of Population and Housing (2014), only one in ten children under five years is registered in the province of Huila. The five information posts created by students and installed in each neighborhood’s administrations seek help to reduce these numbers.
In each of these posts there are four or five young volunteers who receive people according to their needs. On average, 30 people arrive to the information post in 5 hours. The information provided to the population is summarized in a booklet produced with support from UNICEF thanks to European Union’s funding under the Birth Registration and Justice for Children Justice program.
Marina is happy because, little by little, they are gaining community and authorities’ confidence. In addition to providing information to the community, young volunteers also make the pre-registration and the release of documents after being registered and certified by the Civil Registrar, as local administrations do not have enough staff to meet the demand. “For us, is not enough to say to register. We have to tell them why they need to make the registration”, concludes Marina.
On the day of our visit we meet Teresa Jangalai, 24, who went to the information post to receive the certificate of her four-month baby’s birth registration. Teresa made the registration in December and although it took three months to get his registration certificate, now she feels happy because she finally achieved her goal.
“If the child is not registered, he can´t go to school”, she says.
This young mother of two kids didn’t want to register her child too late as it happened with the first son, whose birth registration was only made when he was three years old. In her opinion, “sometimes it’s the father who make this difficult, as they do not want to register their children”.
After receiving the document, she promises: “I will protect the certificate and plasticize it as the volunteers explained to me. They also asked me to make my friends aware of, because without a father, without a mother… now the person can be registered”, Teresa says.
The province of Huila was included in the massification of registrations program, which has the support of UNICEF in four municipalities. Nevertheless, factors related to human and logistical resources condition its large-scale expansion across the province.
Heitor Lourenço is a Communication Officer at UNICEF Angola