Experts estimate that a total of 24 million, or 3 out of 10, Indonesian children do not have birth certificates.
This staggering number is more than the entire population of Australia and more than five times the population of Singapore. Without birth certificates, these children have a difficult time gaining access to medical treatment or enrolling in elementary school. A 2014 study by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics found that Indonesia had the fifth highest number of children not in school in the world, only slightly behind India—a nation with nearly five times the population of Indonesia.
With more than half of Indonesia’s population under the age of 30, it is expected Indonesia will experience a “demographic dividend” of growth as these young people enter what is commonly their most productive period of their lives. However, if these young people are not granted access to education and basic human rights, their ability to secure employment will be hindered, and a large under-employed segment of population is a risk not only to economic growth but also social stability.
More notably, it is indisputable that any child without proper access to education will be unprepared for formal employment in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. Therefore, unschooled children essentially face a life sentence of being stuck in the poverty cycle.
Given the magnitude of population and the economic consequences, addressing the problem of birth certificates is of vital national importance.
In some nations like the United States, access to legal documentation is complicated by debates over immigration status. In Indonesia, this is not the case. No one is claiming these children are not natural-born Indonesians for whom the right to citizenship should be given. Meanwhile, the fact that there is no proper documentation of the children means they are vulnerable to human trafficking and child prostitution.
Some raise concerns that the provision of a birth certificate without a marriage certificate could be considered an endorsement of premarital sexual intercourse. This effectively punishes the child for the conduct of the parents, which would seem to be outside reasonable parameters of latitude for regulations to support Indonesian values of adult conduct. Moreover, parents who do not have birth certificates are three times more likely to have children who do not have birth certificates, demonstrating that a lack of legal identity is passed along from generation to generation.
So if it is important to fix this problem and it appears clearly the right thing to do, why hasn’t it been done?
The current process is complicated and difficult. Registration for birth certificates requires seven government-issued documents. A mix of circumstances make it impossible for many families to provide these documents: lack of resources and awareness coupled by stigma and having to trek to three different government buildings just for one piece of paper makes getting a birth certificate a formidable task.
There are groups working on the issue, and they are making a huge difference for the children they can reach. The Advocacy Team for Birth Registration for Street Children at Plan Indonesia report from 2014 showed that from 27 foundations (Yayasan) working to secure birth certificates for street kids that the groups collectively secured 662 birth certificates. But their reach is far too limited. With an average of 14 days required to issue a birth certificate with the rate indicated by this survey, it would take more than a 1,000 years to reach the current population of kids.
What to conclude from this? By no means should we dismiss the value of the great work being done by the 27 foundations surveyed by Plan Indonesia and any of the other groups trying hard to help kids right now. However, given the magnitude of the problem and limitations of resources of the groups working through the current process, we believe a new approach is needed to give an opportunity to the kids lined up in years 50-1,000 of that 1,000-year-take-a-number-line-up.
Therefore, we are establishing a competitive grant process, modeled after programs like the Google Impact Challenge or the University of Chicago’s John Templeton Foundation’s Science of Philanthropy Initiative to encourage better approaches through innovation or increased participation, we want to gather funds and raise awareness to establish a competitive grant for a new idea to magnify the scope and capacity to deal with this issue. Maybe the new idea is a concept for a new policy level approach, finding a way to get a streamlined process adopted or perhaps it is an unforeseen market development that identifies a market solution to harness the resources required by rolling out a “exponential entrepreneur” solution to change the world like those described in Steven Kotler’s book Bold.
Truthfully, we have no idea what the idea might look like, and that is a good thing. The problem is well-defined, but we don’t want to put constraints on creativity with our preconceived notions.
A number of organizations are coming together on Saturday, June 6th to raise funds and awareness for this competitive grant, which we have named the Akta Award.
There will be two activities that day to raise funds: a charity fundraiser workout and a charity bake sale, #BakeADifference For Birth Certificates. Whether you are looking for the best cupcake in town or to get rid of your muffin tops, the day has something for everyone and is all for a good cause.
How can you help? Spread the word. Help us make this year bigger and better. Come out and enjoy the event. It’s a great afternoon and you will have an opportunity to meet some of the children who have been helped from last year’s fundraiser to help them secure birth certificates. Watch this video to see highlights of last year’s event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-IYAQDroLY
"We know we won't solve this problem in just one day, but we want to create momentum to spread awareness and generate resources to support the process to move toward a solution. These kids deserve a chance to go to school and work for a better life,” said Zack Petersen, one of the organizers of the event.
The event will start at 12pm on Saturday, June 6th at Bengkel Crossfit, The Fairgrounds Building, SCBD Lot 14, Jendral Sudirman Kav 52-53, Jakarta, Indonesia 12190. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested to get involved.