In order to register for secondary school and final exams, Cameroonian students must produce a birth certificate. However, almost 1/3 of births in Cameroon go unregistered - and in rural areas, the ratio is nearly as high as 2/3.
The disproportionate number of female births that are not registered add yet another strike against girls’ access to education. While there are many complex cultural, political, and economic factors that restrict a woman’s education, birth certificates are a direct way to expand access to education.
“Birth certificates are a tangible first step towards improving girl’s education,” says Opportunity Africa’s president Heather Buesseler. “Investing in the relatively simple strategy of ensuring every birth is officially registered is an immediate way to begin improving opportunities for women and reducing unnecessary deaths in Cameroon.”
In addition to disadvantaging women, unregistered births also disproportionately affect certain ethnic groups in Cameroon. The Baka Pygmy people are one such group, and are currently fighting for an identity and an access to education. 98% of Baka births go unregistered - which means that 98% of Baka children have an immediate strike against their access to education.
“Most births in rural areas take place at home. Birth certificates are issued only in the hospitals and the procedure is long,” explains Kaldaussa Faissam, a sub-director of Cameroonian birth certification in a Madison Times article. He too believes that birth registration is a significant and tangible step towards development: “A birth certificate is the first link a citizen has with its government. It shows where a child was born and who its parents are, and defines the child’s nationality,” Kaldaussa says.
For more information on how birth certificates can provide access to new opportunities, please check out Buesseler’s brief video on the power of birth certificates.