I AM HERE , I BELONG
The Need to End Childhood Statelessness
In conjunction with the one year anniversary of the #IBelong Global Campaign to the End Statelessness.
Speech by Ms Nanthini Ramalo, Executive Director of DHRRA Malaysia
I was at the Peace Palace when UNHCR launched the campaign to end statelessness in 10 years in November last year. I thought to myself, Is it enough time to end statelessness in Malaysia? 10 years is a life time for a child who is born today into the legal limbo of statelessness.
Ever since, DHRRA volunteers and paralegals have continued working to make this ambitious goal a reality.
Through a mapping a registration project that we have started mid last year in 2014, we made quite an important progress in knowing who and where the stateless are and how many people are affected by statelessness to inform the campaign to end statelessness. There are 12,000 of them in West Malaysia.
Working hand in hand with the Prime Minister’s Office of the Malaysian government, UNHCR, and the communities that are affected by statelessness, we have helped over 4,500 of them, over 2014 and 2015, in submitting their applications to the government for nationality documentation . Close to 300 successfully acquired documentation in these two years. In fact, Lethumi, who will share her story with us just now is one of them. We aspire to complete the submission for all 12,000 people that are registered with us and it would take one to 3 years to receive the result for nationality application.
Behind every number and case of statelessness that I can go on and on and tell you about, there is a personal struggle that, unfortunately, is too often overlooked by the society and the international community. It is easier to understand a complex topic like statelessness if we explain it through a human story. Those stories will tell you one thing for sure –children want to be children, they want to play, they want to go to school. What we see on the ground every day is their reality and will not go on like this. They want to belong.
Today, we will be meeting three of the individuals who have been registered through DHRRA’s mapping and registration.
Kavita is one of the 12,000 stateless persons who have registered with DHRRA during the ongoing registration exercise in West Malaysia. She was born and raised in Malaysia. Her ambition is to become an art teacher. But she lacks nationality because her father has passed away and her mother left her.
Thachaayeny, abandoned by her biological mother, grew up with her paternal grandmother. Her only hope is to proof her birth to her Malaysian father through DNA-testing.
Letchumi Lavanya, grew up as an “undocumented” child. Separated from her father at birth, his demise only dimmed her mother’s hope to register her birth. However, today Letchumi stands amongst us as a proud citizen of this country.
They are here, they belong.
(visit the photo gallery here)