Floyd Green, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, on Wednesday (September 14) provided details in Parliament on the Operation Birthright programme launched by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on September 9, with the aim of finding persons without birth certificates, who are unable to afford one, and provide one for them.
On July 5, 2022, the story of Rolando Grant came to national attention. Rolando is a deaf child whose mother, Anna-Kay Williams, had difficulties obtaining his birth certificate. This kept him out of classes for two years, and as he is an aspiring pilot, it was important for us to assure him that his dreams are valid, and that his educational journey must continue. So, two weeks later, on July 21, 2022, I journeyed to Victoria Canal in Linstead, St Catherine along with members of the team from the Registrar’s General Department (RGD) to his home, and through the RGD, we processed and handed over a birth certificate free of cost, identifying and documenting him as a Jamaican.
It is estimated that about four per cent of our population do not have a birth certificate. This is even more severe for the disabled population, where only 15 per cent of those who are registered with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) have a birth certificate. This is according to the study by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) titled, “Who Am I? The People Dem NIDS”.
LINK BETWEEN LACK OF IDENTITY, VULNERABILITY AND POVERTY
We want to fix that culture of invisibility and exclusion, we want to ensure that all others like Rolando are able to establish a legal identity, participate in our formal economy, and receive government services.
Unfortunately, there is a link between the lack of identity, vulnerability, and poverty.
This cycle of poverty has to be broken. The lack of resources that result in persons being sunken deeper into a disadvantaged position must be met with solutions. That is why I am proud to be a part of an administration that actively works alongside Jamaicans to empower families, build their resilience, and lift them out of poverty for good. This begins with having that document that proves their existence.
I am pleased to announce that on Friday, September 9, 2022, Prime Minister Andrew Holness launched
Operation BirthRight; a comprehensive approach to finding persons without birth certificates, who are unable to afford one and provide one for them.
This programme, Operation BirthRight, will provide birth certificates free of cost for undocumented Jamaicans with less than monthly J$37,000 income. We have set out on this mission to reach over 11,000 undocumented Jamaicans islandwide.
Operation BirthRight is a show of good faith and an extension of the celebrations being carried out in this, our 60th year of independence, to ensure that all Jamaicans are accounted for and that they can truly say that they belong to this piece of rock that we call our home. This is yet another deliverable on commitments made during my sectoral presentation on May 24th of this year.
Please allow me to share a little about the eligibility and application process of Operation BirthRight:
Persons can access and download the application form for the programme at www.nidsfacts.com and submit the completed form to any RGD offices islandwide for processing. RGD will also be printing and
distributing the form at its branch offices.
In addition, on September 13 we distributed nomination forms to the Members of Parliament that are to be used to nominate persons who are in need of birth certificates and who fit the criteria of:
- Being born in Jamaica
- Being aged 1 year and above.
- Having a monthly income of J$37,000 and below.
- Not currently receiving or have received similar assistance under another similar programme and;
- Being recommended by any person listed in the Authorised Official List.
The Office of the Prime Minister has sought to extend the scope of accessibility and ease for applicants to the programme, and so we have ensured that the list of authorized individuals that can recommend
applicants is quite comprehensive, to include:
• The head of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities.
• Senior Official in the Ministry of Local Government certifying an individual as a registered poor.
• Member of Parliament
• A Justice of the Peace
• Public Officer (SEG 1 and above)
• Medical Practitioner
• Minister of Religion
• Police Officer (Gazetted Ranks)
• Parish Councillor
• Dental Surgeon
• Principal (Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Educational Institutions)
• Bank Manager
• Official Representative of the Salvation Army
• Official Representative of the Missionary of the Poor
• The CEO/coordinator of a registered civil society organisation
• and the head of the PATH programme in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security if the applicant is on PATH.
This demonstrates the tremendous support being meted out to the most needy and most vulnerable in our society.
Of course, we will not stop there. We have taken a deliberate approach to work with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities to identify persons within that community who are without a birth certificate.
We are also coordinating a series of community interventions where the National Identification System (NIDS) project team and the RGD team will go into different areas islandwide and sign-up persons who fit the criteria.
We are also partnering with the National Youth Parliament to coordinate community engagements, led by our youth, to identify these persons so that we can have an extensive reach and ensure we reach our goal of 100 per cent registration of all undocumented Jamaicans who submit and meet the requirements to be registered.
Through the National Identification System’s Project, US$350,000 has been earmarked to fund Operation
BirthRight. So, under the programme, we are not just giving our citizens a chance to identify themselves, but it is about solidifying who they are and opening the doors of endless opportunities for them to becoming the best versions of themselves as Jamaicans.
A birth certificate is not just a piece of paper, it is the start of a journey that allows persons access to education and economic empowerment.
So, let me close by thanking the members of the National Identification System Project team, the team at the Registrar General’s Department and all the supporting staff at the Office of the Prime Minister.