From March 11th to 12th, Members of the Rwandan Parliamentarians’ Network on Population and Development, (RPRPD) conducted a field Visit to oversee how civil registration and vital statistics work at grass root levels.
The MPs surveyed 14 districts in March this year having done an earlier tour of other 15 districts in different parts of the country in November last year to examine the practice of civil status registration.
Reasons for the field visit
The MPs aimed at digging deep into the citizen’s perception of the Civil Registration Procedures in Rwanda so as to find out why many citizens are still reluctant to register their civil status with local administrations. They put emphasis on matters such as deaths, births and marriage as they tried to look for ways of improving the public policy related to the registration there by enhancing social welfare, maternal and child health.
They also wanted to come up with evidence-based decisions for an ideally favourable way of civil registration and vital statistics to curb the bottlenecks that have for long characterized the process. A common problem for instance, is that while registration of births is picking up with about half of newborns being registered at the sector level, official records of death and divorce are still low, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda said.
Hon. Adolphe Bazatoha, an MP, says that another reason for the visit was to help ease planning processes for the government,
“When people do not register, it is a threat against national financial planning. If the government has to build schools, hospitals, among other infrastructures, all has to be done in accordance with the number of people targeted at the time. That is why RPRPD decided to go out and discuss with local authorities and people about this so that we may be able to revise that policy to see whether there is a change for it to be more suitable,” he said.
MPs findings and recommendations
After intimate interactions with citizens and local administration officials, the MPs observed that the civil registration policy gives very limited time in which to conduct the exercise.
“A child has to be brought for registration at the sector offices within 15 days. People told us that the policy gives them a few days to have a child registered,” said Bazatoha.
Bazatoha says that the registration offices are understaffed, making the person in charge of registration to be overwhelmed, slowing down compliance and, sometimes, total abandoning of the exercise.
“If a parent fails to register a child at the office for three consecutive times, the fifteen days can expire when the child has not been registered and then registration has to be done through the court which requires a court fee of 25000 RWF.” He says when it reaches this stage, the person may just give up on the registration and once you have not registered the first child, you cannot register the second.
Another finding shows that a major problem hindering child registration comes in concerning the girls who go to register their babies without the company of their husbands due to the fact that they are victims of unwanted pregnancies among other reasons.
The child registration process requires them to register with their husbands and when they see that they can’t avail him, they choose to leave the process.
Bazatoha says the policy should be revised so that such girls can register their children.
Honorable Marie Therese Murekatete said that reluctance to go for civil registration in some parts is due to ignorance.
“In some parts, people don’t have enough knowledge about it. They don’t know the benefits. They think it is all about registering a child in a book and it ends there. And that is a significant challenge.”
She, likewise, says it sometimes requires parents to walk long distances from their homes to reach sector offices for registration. She blames this for discouraging the people from registering.
She recommends that civil record officers should be facilitated to reach the vicinities of the people and take the services to them.
Murekatete says there are technological developments that ease the process. Unfortunately, they cannot be used by some people due to ignorance. For instance, many people in villages cannot use the online civil registration system.
She commends more sensitization campaigns to be carried out to sensitize people on birth and death registration.
“There should be awareness campaigns for both local leaders and citizens to understand the importance of recording civil status information. There is also need to ease the process of civil status registration to make it more accessible,” she said.
The MPs also recommended that the work load of civil registration officers be reduced in order to make the service more easily accessible to the people since civil status information is crucial for planning purposes for the government.