Mobile birth registration as a tool of ending statelessness and the role of paralegals

The Nubian Rights Forum (NRF) in collaboration with Namati, UNHCR and the Department of Civil Registration had organized a 3-day mobile Birth Registration Campaign in Kibra, Nairobi. The Mobile Birth Registration exercise is one of the approaches of NRF in attaining goal seven of the UNHCR Global action point to eliminate statelessness in 10 years: Ensure Birth Registration For The Prevention Of Statelessness.

Paralegals played an essential role at every stage of the mobile birth registration event.

At the start of the planning process, we had not identified the exact role of the paralegals because we assumed the roles shall only be mobilizing and outreach. The civil registry, which is in charge of registering all births and deaths, had the biggest role. During our negotiations for the event we tried to squeeze our paralegals in the discussions but we were told that they have enough staff to do the job. We had envisioned registering 2,000 births within three days in three centers. I know it sounds over ambitious, after submitting the concept note I started asking myself whether I was sober or not. I know many programs managers understand how we come up with ideas and leave it for the implementer to achieve our goals. Please don’t ask me how I came up with the figure and what informed the figure because I myself can’t answer that. In the end, the civil registry agreed that in order to reach so many people and provide effective birth registration services in a densely populated area the paralegals would be needed to assist the registrars with advising applicants on forms and requirements.

During the internal planning sessions with the paralegals, lots of outreach ideas came up. I remember for one whole week I could not catch enough sleep. @Purity_Wadegu, one of the paralegals, was on my case all the time, we want banners, we want fliers, we want this we want that… We developed a lot of brochures but to be honest, all credits goes to the paralegals. The paralegals played a major role in the entire awareness campaign ranging from radio discussions to on-the-ground outreach and even going round with a car announcing the requirements for the registration.

During the event, the paralegals were divided into two teams, one per site, and we even called upon our former interns to supplement the paralegals. At each site, the paralegals had a desk helping clients with filling the forms and guiding them with what is required and also documenting their contacts and residence. The paralegal desk was a start point of the entire application process, the applicants were required to first visit the paralegal desk where they were to be given the forms and for those who were not able to fill in the forms were assisted. The paralegals also documented each applicant’s contact information and residents. Then, the applicant was referred to the registrars’ desk for final processing.

One of our paralegals Naima helping an applicant. Photo credits by UNHCR/M. Ndubi.

We also had one paralegal in each site who was mobile going round in the tent looking for people who had challenges in filling the forms or didn’t understand how to go about the process. .

The paralegal desk. @Purity_Wadegu helping applicants fill the forms. Photo credits by UNHCR/M. Ndubi.

The paralegals played a great role even by just giving guidelines to applicants on how to fill the forms. In the image below, Hassan one of our paralegals had two long queues of applicants who wanted assistance.

The best part of a project is to see a client empowered and they can do it themselves as this applicant who was guided and she continued with the application herself.

Photo credits by UNHCR/M. Ndubi.

After the event the team of registrars acknowledged that the event would not have been a success if it weren’t for the paralegals. @Lore since you have a similar project in the pipeline, I would encourage you to learn from the NRF experience. For others that may think of a similar activity, you might want to start thinking of some of the roles your paralegals can play.

After the mobile registration I spent some time looking at the records, of course counting the number of people who registered, I was so impressed that my goal of registering 2,000 births was a success and it had even passed the target. I now realize that I have a very strong army/weapon called paralegals. @vivekmaru @lauragoodwin I know how proud their trainers @danielsesay @laurabingham are feeling. Its like a mother seeing her child say “mummy” for the first time. @abigailmoy @michaelotto

The next role of the paralegals is to call the applicants on the 12th of October - some to collect their birth certificates while others to pay for their births to be processed.

What other roles do you think paralegals could play in events you have held? @fatimaadamu @yeyinth @katreichel @krithikadinesh @kanchikohli