Education is one of the most effective ways of helping people to help themselves out of the poverty cycle. Birth certificates are needed for enrolling children in school and to register them for exams. However, across some rural areas, communities are extremely remote from the nearest civil registration centres and it is therefore common for families not to register the birth of their children. Some parents feel unable to take the time out to leave their smallholdings for the journey, or find the cost a deterrent. Even when children from rural communities attend nursery or pre-school, they are unable to sit for the necessary sixth-grade exams to continue schooling without a birth certificate. As adults, they often find themselves unable to apply for professional jobs without the necessary official documentation.
In Cote d'Ivoire, SOS Children’s Family Strengthening Programme supports vulnerable families to stay together and improve their prospects for the future. A key activity of the Programme is financial and practical assistance for families to receive their birth certificates, so that they can access education and vital services. With the document, parents are able to apply for employment, ensuring they can provide for their children and become self-sufficient in the long-term.
Juliette, a young widow and mother of three, was left alone to fend for her family after her husband died suddenly. Her living conditions became increasingly precarious, meals were barely adequate, the children were unable to attend school, and diseases were treated poorly, if at all, since there was no money to cover medical expenses.
Aware that she was unable to meet the basic needs of her family, Juliette asked for help from SOS Children and in 2006, she joined the Abobo Family Strengthening Programme in Côte d’Ivoire. Four times a year, Juliette and her children received packages containing food and essential medical supplies. The children received school supplies including uniforms.
A key aim of the Family Strengthening Programme is for families to become self-sufficient and able to support themselves in the long-term. Juliette was keen to apply for a position as a teacher in the Ivorian civil service, but a birth certificate was a pre-requisite for the application, a document which Juliette had never held. The Family Strengthening Programme helped her to obtain a birth certificate from the village where she was born, and paid the application fee for the job.
Juliette was accepted onto the teacher training programme and started teaching in a public school in Abidjan on 7 January 2010. She admits that she had a hard time at first because she had to combine theory with practice. But with time, she started learning the ropes of the profession she always wanted to pursue. She says: "I love what I am doing; it is my choice. For years, I always dreamed of being a teacher." The family are now completely independent and the children can look forward to a brighter future.