Encouraging responsible parenting in Angola24. 2. 2020
On a recent December morning in the municipality of Viana, not far from Luanda, the capital of Angola, parents lined up at a local market to learn about the importance of registering their children with the authorities. Despite the light rain, people who came to shop lingered to take in a theater performance about birth certificates and good-parenting practices.
“Birth registration is free of charge,” said an actress from the Mulongi Ya Mbote theatre group. Parents listened attentively. “Registration facilitates a child’s access to health, education, and social services,” the actress added.
The performance attracted saleswomen from the market as well as other visitors. A team from People in Need (PIN) was on hand after the performance to answer questions and distribute leaflets with information about registering children. One activity, a quiz to test parent’s knowledge, was particularly well received.
But theater and quizzes aren’t the only ways to inform and engage families. PIN conducts community talks known as “jangos” to share and debate important topics with caregivers. PIN also organizes training courses for health technicians to increase the number of children registered in maternity wards immediately after birth.
A key document
All of these initiatives are designed to ensure that children are known to authorities and registered for the services they are entitled to. “The registration document is important because without it, you can do nothing,” notes Marcelo Firmino, a father who spoke with PIN. For example, “it’s very difficult to enroll in school without it.”
As part of the PIN project, a total of 80 “agents of change” have been recruited in eight municipalities in the provinces of Luanda, Uíge, Bié, and Huíla. The agents of change are leaders in their communities, and through their work on the project, they also become the local source for questions about birth registration. They work together with both religious and community leaders, among others, with the aim of increasing the number of registered children in a country where three in four children under five years of age don’t have a birth certificate.
Antonio Domingos dos Santos, a father of five, is one of these change agents; he’s responsible for mobilizing the community where he lives. He faced difficulties during his own childhood because he didn’t have a birth certificate, thus he’s working to build a better future for his children and for the families he helps with birth registrations. “Birth registration is important to show that you are a national citizen,” dos Santos says.
Promoting non-violence at home
All of these activities emphasize not only the importance of birth certificates, but also the significance of good parenting practices. For instance, fathers are taught that to be a good role model they must be patient, affectionate, and responsible. That means registering their children and being present in their lives. “Some families believe that hitting children is normal. But physical punishments don’t educate,” says Silvina Bandeira, a project field officer and community mobilizer. “We work to improve parents’ behavior toward their children. I think the families are listening to what we say.”
The project educates families in both urban areas, like Viana, as well as in remote villages. José Francisco Praia, one of the agents of change, has mobilized more than 1,000 people living in five hamlets in Quipungo municipality, Huíla province. “Sometimes parents scold and hit their children, instead of talking to them and explaining what they can and can’t do,” he says.
In the communities where Praia works, it’s common to find women whose children have no birth certificates. “Many single mothers think that both the mother and the father should be present to register the child, but we explain that this isn’t necessary,” he adds.
Mothers can register their children by presenting their own documents; the father’s name can be included later should he decide to take responsibility for the child. “I’ve already lost too much time because I didn’t know I could register my child with my name only. I’m going to do it right now,” says the actress, wrapping the play up in Viana.
This project is part of a program led by Angola’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and funded by the European Union. PIN jointly implements the project with UNICEF. In order to ensure the project’s sustainability, governmental institutions on national, provincial, and municipal levels are involved in all phases of planning and execution.