“He needs the birth certificate for school, or else he can’t take the national high school exam tomorrow”, explained my colleague I worked with in Togo while I was a Peace Corps volunteer. There had been a scramble all morning in the neighborhood to mobilize a dollar here, 50 cents from the women down the street in order to pay the fee and the willingness of a bush taxi driver to take the documents to the administrative building in the regional capital six hours away so that it could be finished by the next day. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it also takes the mobilization of a whole village sometimes to gain a legal identity document in many places around the world. Being born in New York City, half a world away in St. Luke’s hospital given a birth certificate and identify documents from almost day one I had never had to face what that Togolese high school student and his family faced that day, but it is the reality for millions of people around the world that struggle to gain access to education, social, and health services daily. As fate would have it after several years of focusing on community-based family planning, I ended up having the opportunity to work on a project focused on legal identity documents through the Center on Child Protection (PUSKAPA) this summer for my summer practicum at Mailman.
PUSKAPA, which is housed at the University of Indonesia focuses on strengthening the lives of children and families and was established in December 2009 with the partnership of University of Indonesia, Columbia University, and the Indonesia Ministry of Planning, supported by other partners such as USAID and UNICEF. One of their main current projects works on assisting vulnerable populations to gain access to legal identity documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates or divorce certificates). Legal identity documents play an essential role in the lives of Indonesians as they do for many around the world and help them gain formal recognition of citizenship and gain access to public services, including education, social assistance programs, and health centers. The project supported under an Australian Government program AIPJ and has been ongoing since 2012, PUSKAPA works with central and sub-national governments, courts, civil society and communities to support the implementation of non-discriminatory, accessible and simplified procedures that increase the number of women and children who receive legal identity documents that facilitate their access to basic services, mostly through advocating for mobile and integrated services in selected districts called Yandu, which has been used to increase access to legal identity.
Over the past four years, PUSKAPA and Program on Forced Migration and Health students have engaged in field research in Indonesia on legal identity. Most recently over the summer, PusKaPA hosted graduate students in North Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara provinces. Myself and two other graduate students Brooke Feldman and Yeray Novoa Medina, recent graduate Cyril Bennouna who is a Senior Research Associate with the Center, along with PUSKAPA staff undertook a mid-line assessment for the project starting in June. While conducting this research we worked under the guidance of PFMH faculty member Dr. Lindsay Stark and Co-Director of the Center Santi Kusumaningrum on research design, tools development, research methodology, and analysis.
The mid-line assessment followed up with couples that had received Yandu services in the last years through the project, and also neighbors who were not apart of the project. The research team sought to answer the question of current barriers to accessing legal identity documents, and used participatory ranking methods along with focus group discussions in the communities. A household survey was also conducted in order to answer the two questions of what changes have their been for women, men or children who participated in Yandu and also do people who access Yandu go on to promote it to others and what is the effect of this? The research team also worked in conjunction with local partner PEKKA in the provinces during the assessment which was highly valuable as they had extensive knowledge and networks of the communities we were working in. Overall, this included 1,403 surveys, and 20 focus group discussions. Data analysis is still ongoing and the initial findings should be finalized soon.
Working in Indonesia on this project was a rich experience that took classroom learning on quantitative and qualitative research into remote fishing communities, palm oil plantations, remote mountaintops in search of the answers to the questions we had determined for the assessment. Indonesia is a country that has extreme diversity, and if answers to barriers to accessing legal identity can be solved there, who’s to say that those lessons cannot be replicated and learned from in other places around the world that have similar issues in the future.
To read more about the Center of Child Protection at the University of Indonesia please use the link below: http://www.puskapa.org/
*This Research is supported by Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice (AIPJ)