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Fifteen-year-old Ridwan from Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, blogs about what it’s like to not have a birth certificate. On 20 Setpember Ridwan will speak at a high-level panel on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics at the Sixth Asia-Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok.
Some people might not think a birth certificate is very important. It is only a piece of paper, isn’t it? It’s probably not something you think about very often. But if you ask me why my birth certificate is important, the answer is simple: my birth certificate gave me a second chance to go to school.
Two years ago I was forced to drop out of school when I was only 12 because my parents could no longer afford to send me. I live in Jakarta so I spent the days on the street with my mother, trying to help her to sell food. Sometimes I would sing on the street to ask for money from people going about their days. I would always look at the other children in their school uniforms and long to be just like them. It was my dream to become a teacher, but I needed to help support my family.
Sometimes the police asked the children on the streets for their birth certificates when we were working. I was always scared that this might happen to me. I thought I might be arrested if I couldn’t prove how old I was.
Everything changed when I was walking along the street with some of my friends and we saw a small room where some children were learning to read and write. The teacher told us he was helping the children, who also could not attend school, so I was happy to become a member of this group, Yayasan Rumah Kita [supported by Plan Indonesia].
I was excited when the staff told me they could help me to re-enroll in school, but when I tried to return, it was a very difficult situation because you must have a birth certificate to prove your age. I didn’t have one. I was thinking, “Will I have to live my entire life on the street?”
It was only when my mother spoke to Yaysan Ruman Kita that they explained how to apply for my certificate. I am so happy now because I am studying in the sixth grade and I can tell my friends the date I was born and my real name. Soon I will be able to take the national examinations too.
Now that I have returned to school, a door has been opened for me to fulfill my dream to become a teacher. I am studying hard and maybe this dream will come true now that I have a second chance to go to school.
Plan Indonesia’s ‘Birth Certificate for Street Children’ programme will assist 1500 children in Jakarta obtain their birth certificate before December 2014 and increase awareness of birth registration among 3500 community members. This programme, supported by Aviva insurance group, is implemented by Plan Indonesia and the Ministry of Social Affairs. 500 children have been assisted so far to obtain their birth certificate, which provides them with improved access to public services like education and healthcare.
According to the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs, there are 230,000 street children in Indonesia, 6,000 of these children live in Jakarta. More than 90 per cent of the street children in Jakarta do not have a birth certificate and are at risk of violence and crime.