Imagine telling 1 in 3 children in Australia, “sorry but you are not entitled to a birthday”
By Plan International’s Sophie Shugg.
Today is my birthday.
For me, growing up in a big family, your birthday was that one day of the year where you felt ‘special’. It meant brand-new gifts that siblings had to ask for my permission to use; my favourite meal cooked for dinner; my very own party! It was my day – yes, I shared it with other kids around the world but for some reason, it still felt like my own.
Now that I’m in my 30s I don’t need the party and presents. But I still maintain expectations for the day – a call from my parents, some Facebook love, or breakfast in bed. I now find myself using the day as an opportunity for self-reflection. What was I doing this time last year? What are my goals for the next 12 months?
For the past year I’ve been managing birth registration programs for Plan International Australia. I spend my days hearing stories and writing about the barriers faced by boys and girls who don’t have a birth certificate. They don’t have health care, and their enrolment in school is blocked. Opportunities for employment are denied Every day I read and write reports on the staggering number of children who are unregistered. 230 million children without a birth certificate. But today, that number doesn’t look the same. Because today is the first time I realised that these 230 million children have not, will not, ever have a happy birthday.
Imagine telling 1 in 3 children in Australia, “sorry but you are not entitled to a birthday. Why? Because your father passed away, your mother is not registered, your family can’t afford to travel for two days to process the application.” These are just a few of the reasons why children are commonly denied a birth certificate.
Birth registration is every child’s right; no childhood should be without a birthday. I have decided that today, on my special day, I want to spread awareness about the importance of birth registration. To all my Facebook friends posting messages on my wall, thank you for remembering me. Now, let’s join forces and remember those 230 million children who do not have a special day to be remembered.
Wish Sophie a happy birthday by sharing this story.
Plan International has been promoting Universal Birth Registration through advocacy and programming for over 14 years. Every child has the right to be registered at birth so that throughout life they can access other rights: education, health care and protection.
In 2005, Kofi Annan launched Plan’s global ‘Count Every Child’ campaign which has successfully contributed to the registration of over 40 million boys and girls in 36 countries.