TEN-YEAR-OLD Siti Munirah Abdullah was a picture of happiness as she received her birth certificate, knowing she now had a chance to go to school.
Siti and her five other siblings aged between seven and 15 had their education disrupted because they did not have their birth certificates.
Their mother Jumaah Awang, 39, who lives at the Paya Nahu flats, accompanied the children for the document handover at the Cinta Sayang Resort in Sungai Petani.
Jumaah, whose marriage was not legally registered, alleged that a private hospital had withheld the birth documents as they were too poor to pay for the hospital fees.
Their plight came to the attention of Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia during a mapping and registration exercise last year and the NGO helped them get the documents.
Siti Munirah and siblings Muhammad Faizah Hakimie, 11, Muhammad Farid, eight, and Nur Arisah, seven, received their birth certificates from DHRRA president S. Saravanan.
“The two other siblings will receive their documents later.
“We will buy the children uniforms and other items for school,” said Saravanan.
The children were among 21 recipients during the ceremony.
The exercise has also identified 1,450 stateless people in Kedah.
R. Chandaravalli, 65, from Kuala Ketil, who was holding a red identity card, was overjoyed to receive her full citizenship.
There was double joy for her as during the process of helping the mother of 17 children, DHRRA was able to reconnect her to her long-lost second son.
Saravanan said that apart from Kedah, the mapping and registration exercise which began last year also yielded 4,023 cases of people lacking proper documents in Perak.
They are now carrying out the exercise in Selangor where they identified 1,082 cases last month.
“We are working closely with the Prime Minister’s Department to resolve the stateless issue, especially in the Indian community, as the figure given to us was a staggering 300,000 Indians,” he said.
Saravanan said DHRRA started in Malaysia in 1974 with the aim to empower rural folk economically but found out that the stateless issue was a huge problem and needed to be tackled first.
“We carry out door-to-door canvassing in the rural areas to obtain a proper data base to help the people.
“Without proper documents, these people will be stuck forever in a rut with no proper access to education or health care.”
He said DHRRA was thankful to the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees personnel who helped them with proper documentation online as well as the various state and district Registration Offices for assisting them.
Those who need help can contact DHRRA’s main office in Petaling Jaya at 03-78747680/81.