How a woman and a phone change the world

Mother and her son looking at her phone

In Pakistan, a group of women are doing work that has a positive impact long after their visit. They provide identities to the unregistered children.

Mai Hajani has recently given birth, an event worthy of days of celebration with friends and family. Two of the guests are of extra importance, namely the local Lady Health Worker (LHW), Lateefan Banu and her daughter Saira.

Lateefan is one of the 19 women working in Union Council Dhabeji. A resident of the area, she has been working as a health worker for the last 17 years. She caters to 147 households comprised of over 1,000 people.

A woman on her phone with her baby in the background

Alongside raising awareness on health, hygiene and immunisation matters among mothers, another important job is the initiation of processes to register all newborn and unregistered children with the government authorities. As soon as Lateefan finds out that a child has been born to any of the 147 households, she visits the family to acquire the details of the newborn for initiating the registration process.

“This is the ninth child I am registering in this village during the last six months,” says Lateefan Banu. “When I started working on birth registration, people were not interested and I did not get a good response even in this village. I then met Allahdad Balooch, the newly-elected councillor and explained the benefits of birth registration and the new process of birth registration through mobile phones. He understood and promised to talk to the residents. Thanks to him, now when a child is born in the village, they invite me for lunch and request to register the child. The mindset has changed.”

Group of woman and their children
The Lady Health Worker, Lateefan Banu feeds details about the newborn Darya Khan and his family into her smart phone before transferring it to the Union Council Office, a process that leads to birth registration and issuance of a birth certificate.

Registering newborns made easy

Earlier, the birth registration process was cumbersome and required considerable amounts of time to complete, resulting in a situation where parents usually opted to avoid the process altogether and their children remained unregistered. Another reason for low registration rates stemmed from a lack of awareness about the benefits of birth registration.

Digital birth registration infographic

The use of mobile phones for scaling-up birth registration in Pakistan is an innovative and efficient supplement to the paper-based manual birth registration system. With funds and technical support from Telenor Pakistan, UNICEF’s mobile phone birth registration initiative has borne great results in Union Council Dhabeji. During the pilot phase in 2015, 95 per cent of newborn children were registered within the first six months of their birth, compared to approximately 5 per cent in 2014.

“Timely birth registration is a 'passport for protection' for a child," says the UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Jabeen Fatima Abbas. “Digitalisation of the birth registration process and collaboration with various government departments, as well as with the private sector, is the way forward to achieve universal birth registration for all children in Pakistan.”