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Birth Registration • Kenya • 2023
“I don’t like it when I’m in public and begging because people insult me.” Telvoh

Telvoh is just five years old, but for the whole of his life, his days have been inextricably linked to the streets of Nairobi where he lives with his mother and his 3-year-old niece, Mirri. The family struggles to get by day to day and pretty much as soon as he could walk, Telvoh’s mother encouraged him to work on the streets begging. It's a sad fact that children often attract more attention from passers-by and are therefore more successful at getting them to give money, food, or anything else people are willing to give away.

“I have to beg for long hours with people giving me anything and I get annoyed by the police and city officials.” Telvoh

Because Telvoh is so young, he is often not far from his mother when he’s on the street, and it is through her involvement in a Savings Association set up by Toybox’s partner in Kenya, Pendekezo Letu, that Telvoh has recently been getting help and support, most recently by obtaining his birth certificate.

“Sometimes we have a small rented room at a safe house, but when we’re not there, we’re often in the Central Business District of Nairobi working. When we wake up each morning, there are tasks like getting water for drinking from a tap in the local park and I clean myself and the children before we start the day. Then we spend the day walking around and begging. I check my regular spots to make sure no one is encroaching on them and ensure that there are no police officers nearby who might stop me from begging. Basically, we just rotate around all the spots until night comes.

When we don’t have the room for the night, we sleep behind a toilet block in a park in the city. It’s generally safe because there are lots of people resting so we can all look out for each other and the police rarely come in here. If we go out on the street, we face the full force of the law through night patrols."

“The begging was mainly happening before I knew Pendekezo Letu. I felt weak and hopeless as I was dependent on other people for support.” Koi, Telvoh's mother

"Since I met them though, I’ve been able to join an economic empowerment programme where I come together with other caregivers of children on the streets and we are training on how to open and register savings and get loans from the group. Now I know how to save the money that I earn on a weekly basis, but can also get low interest loans from the group to meet my personal needs and support my children.

Through PKL, I also learned more about birth registration and how important it was to register Telvoh. Initially, he didn’t have his documents due to a lack of the documents needed for the process. He needed a hospital birth notification and my identity card – I didn’t have the birth notification because it got lost a long time ago – as did my ID card and I hadn’t memorized the number on it. Replacing those two documents was an uphill task. On my part, I was required to report the loss of my ID card at the police where I’d have to fill in forms and pay the replacement fee. This was impossible for me because there is no way I’d have taken myself to the police station knowing very well there is bad blood between street families and the police. I didn’t even have the money pay for the replacement ID card for me, let along the 500 shillings fee that was needed to get his birth notification from the hospital. The whole process was very intimidating for me, so I just gave up.

Telvoh not having his birth certificate was difficult because he had to be on the streets with me as I couldn’t enrol him in school. It was hard because the chief and police have been on my neck asking why I was out in the streets with the children instead of them being in school. The whole process was hectic and tiring from start to finish. Telvoh met Charles (PKL’s Identity Officer) while he was hawking on the streets. That was when I learned about the birth registration programme and decided to get help to process identity documents for my children. I shared with Charles about my previous failed attempts and he promised to help.

First, he recommended that we start by replacing my identity card which could then be used to get my children’s. So, we set a date and he accompanied me to the sub-country registration office where he presented my case to the registrar. Normally, fingerprints can be used to identify people on the system, but that day we went, the machine wasn’t working so we had to go through files one by one to search for my name as I only had a rough year and location for where I was registered… Finally, we found my files and could log into the system."

"He paid the fee and then I had to wait 2 weeks for my ID card to arrive. This was when we had our second mission of replacing Telvoh’s birth notification from the hospital. Again we had to go there and look through the files from the time he was born, but eventually we got it, which meant we finally had the documents we needed to get him his birth certificate.

Now, he’s going to school – in January, he’ll move into a boarding school where he will be enrolled in classes, none of which would’ve been possible without his birth certificate. He will be safe there and I’m very happy. My child is like other children now.

On top of this, I can also use his birth certificate to register him for the National Health Insurance Fund once my business gets going properly. Now, I just want him to attend school to the highest level possible and become an engineer so he can earn a good salary and take care of me in my old age.

I know it’s the right of every child to have a birth certificate and I really believe that parents should make every effort to get this for their child – not having it means denying children the chance to access government services like schooling and health services. I feel more secure knowing that he is recognised by the government and that if anything happens, he is a Kenyan citizen so can get help. My children are everything to me so I’m glad they have that now.”

For Telvoh, though he is young, he understands that having his birth certificate is going to change his life.

“Before, there was a home I was going to go to, to get off the street but they said I had to have a birth certificate so they didn’t take me in. Charles took us to many places where they asked for many papers and they stamped them. Some of the buildings were very tall. We also went to the hospital. Now I can go to school and I am happy. I know birth certificates help children go to school.”

“In the future I want to be a pilot so I can earn a lot of money and help my mother.” Telvoh

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