POSTED September 27, 2021
How we’re helping internally displaced children dream big
Learn more about how we’re working with partners to break barriers to education through enhanced birth registration for internally displaced children
By Christelle Kalhoulé, director West Africa
I recently met Bintou* at one of our child-friendly spaces for internally displaced families, and given the time of year, I thought she was a schoolgirl on vacation. How wrong I was. When we began talking, I quickly realized her story was much different.
More than 10 years ago, Bintou’s family fled the Ivory Coast — during post-electoral violence. Sadly, it wasn’t long before they had to flee their village in Burkina Faso and find refuge in the city due to ongoing insurgent attacks in their new homeland.
In these terrifying moments, the family was forced to leave behind civil documents and other belongings. And, with no birth registration, Bintou couldn’t enrol in school. Instead, she joined the growing list of children — more than one in five on average, according to national stats — who do not have a birth certificate and no official identity.
Still, Bintou has a dream. She would like to become a gendarme when she grows up.
“I want to become a gendarme (police officer) to protect people,” she told me innocently. She has no idea how complicated life is without a birth certificate. Yet, I could see her face brightening and her eyes shining when she talked about her dream. It was so encouraging to hear such hope come from the mouth of this girl whose short life is already full of challenges.
Bintou doesn’t understand why she can’t be enrolled in school like other children. When I asked how she feels, she told me: “It’s not fair. My parents and I left Ivory Coast, because the situation was not bearable. But here, we are not safe either,” she said.
It was difficult to know what to say. I realized we still have much to do to help more kids like Bintou; it’s not fair innocent children can’t pursue their dreams, because they don’t have a simple paper confirming their existence.
Yet, I strongly believe there’s hope. And, although there’s no immediate answer, our work is having a real impact.
To start, the child-friendly spaces we host, with support from UNICEF, provide healthcare, cash transfers for a child’s basic needs, psychosocial care to overcome trauma, support to return to school, life-skills training and more.
And, in partnership with UNICEF, Children Believe has initiated a birth-registration project for children who were never registered or who lost their civil documents.
Our goal is to provide 30,000 birth certificates to children in the Centre North, Centre East and East regions. Our team is strongly engaged with the General Directorate of Birth Registration Modernization and municipalities to operationalize secondary civil registration centres as well as train and equip staff to enhance child registration at birth.
Now, more children like Bintou can pursue education and fulfil their dreams.
*Child’s name was changed for her protection
ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):
Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.
About ChildFund Alliance:
A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.