Spotlight on AASAMAN, NepalIn the Kingdom of Nepal, children cannot attend school unless they have official birth certificates. Parents, especially those in rural areas, are often uninformed about the process for obtaining birth registration for their children. For example, they do not realize that registration within 35 days of a child's birth is free-of-charge, while later there is a fee for registering. At the same time, corruption in some areas means that dishonest officials request extra documentation and then charge a higher fee if the confused parents don't have it. When children are older, not having a birth certificate becomes just one more obstacle to attending school, along with extreme poverty and sometimes distance from schools. AASAMAN, Winrock's CIRCLE NGO partner in eastern Nepal, is making birth registration a key component of its efforts to get children out of hard labor and into school. Without birth registration, children cannot go to school; talking about registration gives the NGO a neutral opening through which to talk to parents in high-risk areas for child labor about school attendance.
Due to AASAMAN's efforts under the CIRCLE project, communities, local governments, and Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries – as well as parents and teachers – are all becoming familiar with the rules and significance of certificates for children. In some areas, AASAMAN staff and volunteers are conducting home visits to explain government regulations to parents, help them with the registration process and with school enrollment, and convince them to send their children to school. In the Farahadwa area, AASAMAN mobilized school management committee members, teachers, the VDC secretary, youth club members, and parents to participate in the home visits. The team was able to complete birth registrations and to enroll 168 children (52 girls and 116 boys) in area schools.
Other concerned people are building on the momentum created by the NGO: for example, the head teacher of the Mujurba primary school of Laxmipur Kodraha VDC, at his own initiative and expense, helped to get birth registration for 52 children – quite likely a record in that district. His action attracted great attention and interest among the community and further raised awareness of the issue.
The NGO is also writing and performing street dramas on birth registration and school enrollment. These visual and public events succeed very well in conveying a clear message against child labor. After a performance at Madanpur of Jamuniya VDC, for example, one old woman became very emotional and told the community that illiteracy was the sole reason that her family was so poor; she pleaded with other parents not to repeat her mistake of not sending their children school.
Among the seven points in the Declaration, two explicitly referred to the issue of birth registration (as translated from the Nepali):
"Birth registration is the first right of a child, as it gives identity of the existence of the child in her/his state/country and obliges the state to provide minimum rights to her/him. Therefore we will register all children within the age category of 16 years in Sarlahi district."
"We will not make any differentiation between birth registered and non-registered children in school."One of AASAMAN's targets in its CIRCLE project is to ensure that at least 75% of school-aged children in its target regions have birth certificates. Their innovation in tying birth registration to school enrollment has already changed the future for hundreds of children. According to teachers, VDC secretaries, and parents, this is the first time that there has been so much interest and action in stopping child labor.