Empowerment versus prevention of statelessness

As a practitioner of legal empowerment on citizenship rights sometimes I get confused on the best approach. I know the goal is to empower the community members on the application process, the importance of documentation, interacting with government officials and to be able to assist another applicant. The second goal especially when it comes to birth registration is to ensure birth registration for the prevention of statelessness. These two goals in theory go hand in hand but in practice may clash.

In theory we assume that everyone has ample time to go through the tiresome process of birth registration if we are to go according to the principal of empowerment. Let me try to breakdown the process a little bit for everyone so that we can all be at the same page. The first day which is a working day involves the filing of application form which the client can be assisted by the paralegal or if he is learned he can do it himself. Then he has to take the forms to the chief and the deputy county commissioner for signing, either on the same day or the following day and this can take the whole day given the commissioner and the chief’s busy schedule. That’s day one and day two, on day three, he has to take the document to town for search to check if the records exist, and that is in town which might take another whole day. Then the next phase is to take the application form to another office for review and authentication of the details and that’s another day gone, remember he has not yet paid for the birth certificate yet. If the application is approved, he has to collect his application form the next day for payment and then pay the next day and wait for a period of about one to three weeks. That’s a minimum of five working days that he has to follow up to get a birth certificate.

Lets now look at this in the context of the community where majority are casual laborers or are paid on day to day basis and the entire family has to work to pull resources together for survival. How many individuals shall sacrifice to go a whole week without food to register a birth? How many will risk losing their job to go through the process? Is this partly the reason why there are a lot of unregistered births? Is this case similar to where you work?

This leaves paralegals in limbo not knowing the best approach to the problem. Ideally their main aim is to empower the community through the application process but what if this is the client who cannot risk his job and even the wife also can’t do the same? Does it mean that the paralegal has to wait until the day they retire or when they are on leave to assist them apply? By taking this road, don’t we risk the child to statelessness due to lack of registration? Considering it is legal to apply on behalf of the parent, can the paralegal apply for the parent? Will the parent be empowered? Between empowerment and prevention of statelessness which one is the top priority? If you face such challenges in the other sector where the paralegal client cant follow the whole process but expresses interest what would you do? I am lost and need guidance @vivekmaru @Purity_Wadegu @tobiaseigen @yeyinth @krithikadinesh @lauragoodwin @michaelotto @FITCAM


@Mustafa_Mahmoud. I know the saying that" give a man fish and he eats for a day but teach him how to fish and he eats for a life time." Well empowerment is not just about letting the client doing it for himself, though this may be an effective way, it is also about Information. Inform the client about what goes on during the application process. In case where you may be forced to do it on behalf of the client, engage him in every stage of the process. This way he may have a visual of what goes on and may at one time be able to do it for himself.

Lastly, why dont we continously engage the government to ensure that there are staffs who are able to serve the citizens even during lunch hours. There is need to improve service delivery and reducing the timeline it takes for the application of such documents.


@purity_Wadegu thanks for the positive feedback. Kindly highlight to us your experience as a paralegal in this field when do you take such decisions of when to accept the client’s delegation of the application process? How effective is the approach of just explaining the process in theory compared to him actually doing it? As much as in theory we are suppose to empower the client by letting him do all the process with the help of the paralegals. How realistic is this in practice? How many times have you been forced to apply for a client and why?