In February we launched a campaign to encourage families to obtain birth certificates for their children, as well as continuing the other activities of the project.
Obtaining a birth certificate and a registered legal identity is an essential prerequisite for enrolling children in school, and for them to qualify for government health programs. Despite this, lack of registration remains a major barrier which contributes to thousands of children in our city not attending school.
According to government statistics for 2010, nearly half of all children in Chiapas under the age of one had not yet obtained a birth certificate. There is no equivalent figure for the indigenous Mayan population (around a third of all people in Chiapas), but it is certainly much lower, as they constitute the poorest and most marginalized section of society.
Our campaign includes putting up posters, handing out leaflets and explaining to people how to register their children. So far, we have put up 72 posters in public places, mostly in markets, which are visited by thousands of people every day and are central in the lives of both the indigenous and mestizo population. So far we have handed out 90 leaflets in the Mayan Tsotsil language and 92 in Spanish, explaining to the recipients how they can register their children.
In addition, we have prepared radio announcements for the campaign (also in Spanish and Tsotsil) which are currently being broadcast on six community radio stations and also in the radio stations of the Merposur and Tielmans markets.
We expect this work to substantially increase registrations this year.
Following pressure from child rights organizations including Melel Xojobal, the government is slowly moving to address this issue. During the month of April families can now obtain the document free of charge. The state government has also commissioned a review to see how the registration process can be made easier and less bureaucratic.We are also working with the Civil Registry office to encourage them to create out-reach teams to continue the activities we are currently running.
There is a long way to go however. We still encounter stories of families turning up at government offices to be told they have run out of forms, or that the relevant staff are not present. Discriminatory attitudes against indigenous people also remain a problem. During April we will be paying close attention to identify these kinds of problems in order to press the government to do more.
Once again, a big thank you to all our GlobalGiving donors for your support for this work, which is tremendously important to get children into school and help families protect their rights.
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San Cristobal de Las Casas,
San Cristobal de Las Casas,