Zimbabwe undocumented (ep. 9)

November 22, 2022

In this episode we’re heading to Zimbabwe to hear about the impact that a lack of ID has on individuals and the country as a whole.

Zimbabwe undocumented – Ep 9

Zimbabwe is beginning to realize the national impact of low birth registration rates with only 49 percent of under-fives registered nationally in 2019. Without a birth certificate and subsequent ID credentials, a lifetime of missed opportunities can line up in front of a child and this scales up to big problems for the country.

https://mics-surveys-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/MICS6/Eastern%20and%20Southern%20Africa/Zimbabwe/2019/Snapshots/Zimbabwe%202019%20MICS%20Snapshots%20of%20Key%20Findings_English.pdf (page 40)

Tafadzwa Mavudzi, a monitoring and evaluation specialist for the NGO Nutrition Action Zimbabwe, talks to the ID16.9 Podcast about her experiences around legal identity, professionally and personally.


Mavudzi discusses how service access can be restricted directly, such as school attendance especially in urban areas, and indirectly such as healthcare when a lack of education means people do not earn enough to travel to or pay for health services.

There are differing advantages and disadvantages in seeking registration for children in rural and urban areas, with the urban push and facilities gaining the upper hand.

Children are affected in many ways by not having their births registered, such as being prevented from attending school, being barred from competitive sport and even struggling to prove they are minors if the victim of sexual violence.

Mavudzi proposes solutions in terms of legal reform and referral pathways for helping those identified as unidentified by NGOs or civil society organizations.

01:21 Tafadwa Mavudzi on her role in the community, the health issues she encounters including malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and a lack of coordination on health issues and informing people

04:05 How NAZ coordinates with government departments, lack of digital record-keeping

05:40 Lack of identity documents generally doesn’t impact directly on accessing health, but affects schooling and therefore literacy, ability to get good jobs, fully enjoy society

05:59 2018 survey in Matabeleland South found that a third of children do not have ID, births not registered, lack of understanding of the process

07:30 Access to health affected by lack of ID as people remain poor and travel to health and cannot afford to pay

08:40 Children may be allowed to attend school, especially in rural areas, but will not be able to graduate from primary school

09:40 Children restricted from competitive sport as they cannot prove their ages

10:20 Children who are sexually assaulted may not be able to prove they were minors at the time without ID

11:40 Awareness is growing of the larger impact on the country of a lack of birth registration, more activities to register and provide ID documents

12:35 Issue of registration being overly centralized, requiring travel to urban centers

13:20 How children cannot get birth certificates if their parents do not have them, single mothers sometimes hold on for an absent father to return, making it increasingly difficult for the child to have their birth registered

16:35 The importance of birth certificates, using schools and village chiefs to vouch

17:28 Birth certificates should be issued at the time and place of birth

18:33 Very difficult to get a death certificate if the deceased did not have ID

20:58 No training is provided to village chiefs, they have to learn on the job. NAZ tries to involve them in any training they provide

22:42 No real way of proving a vouch provided by a village chief, usually only one of several vouches required

23:48 How people use their grandparents as parents in order to get birth certificates

25:44 Rural advantages for getting ID: the chief knows you, school knows you. Urban advantages: facilities easier and cheaper to access, the fact that schools are much stricter (requiring a certificate even to start school) means parents are more likely to seek registration early in their children’s lives, facilities more forthcoming with documentation, easier to seek help from support services

30:39 The legal system needs to change to allow children to receive ID even if the parents do not have them, should be more locally available

33:11 Civil society efforts seem to be helping shift government thinking, but government expects civil society to do much of the heavy lifting. Community work is happening from the government

34:40 Tafadzwa on her experience of trying to replace her own identity after a robbery

36:43 Does not expect change soon

37:49 NGOs could work together to create a referral pathway for people without ID to help them acquire ID, perhaps a more specialized NGO for this purpose

Find out more about the ID16.9 Podcast and the importance of legal identity at https://id169.com

Produced and hosted by Frank Hersey at Biometric Update https://www.biometricupdate.com

FRANK HERSEY [00:00:02] Welcome to the ID 16.9 podcast, where we try to delve into the details of and realities surrounding United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 for legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030. Because more than a billion people in the world have no legal identity and 2030 is fast approaching.

[00:00:27] I’m your producer and host, Frank Hersey. In this episode, we’re heading to Zimbabwe to hear about the impact that a lack of ID has on individuals and the country as a whole. Our guest works at the community level, and will take us through all the issues and how they play out differently in rural and urban Zimbabwe. And she’s got some solutions. Joining me now is Tafadzwa Mavudzi, a monitoring and evaluation specialist for the NGO Nutrition Action Zimbabwe. Thank you so much for joining us.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:01:03] Thank you, Frank. It’s a pleasure having you here. Thank you very much for inviting me for the interview.

FRANK HERSEY [00:01:09] So I thought, really, let’s just hear a little bit about what you do in your role and what is, say, a typical day – if there is such a thing as a typical day – in your job?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:01:21] So my job is I work for the Nutrition Action Zimbabwe as an M&E specialist, monitoring and evalution specialist. I work with different communities trying to see how best we can report their impacts, how we are doing well to the vulnerable communities in the rural areas. So most of the time we are working with those vulnerable people, interviewing them, trying to understand how our projects that we are implementing with them to try and uplift their livelihoods, how we can actually change them and how we are actually changing their lives. So it’s usually my typical day of life, like just getting to understand how our project is impacting on those communities.

FRANK HERSEY [00:02:05] And what sort of issues do you come across? What sorts of health issues do you come across?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:02:11] So we have different health issues that we’re coming up with, especially when you know that Zimbabwe is in the sub-Saharan Africa. So sub-Saharan Africa, we’ve got a lot of health delivery issues. So we can start with basically in my typical week, we have issues to do with malnutrition. If you look at the malnutrition rates in Zimbabwe still facing under nutrition in Zimbabwe, we still have children that are undernourished withstanding. And you see that most of our areas that we are working in, in the ascending rates are usually below the, the global threshold range of 20%. So we try to work capacity to the communities so they at least understand what a healthy diet is. Trying to promote healthy diets, using their local available foods, and also have the issues with HIV AIDS is to prevent and to find the issues people which are still affected by HIV AIDS. So we try to work with those communities as well in trying to just promote awareness about testing, being tested and to seeking health attention from the hospitals. And sometimes one of the issues that is the main issue that we are failing to get to address this issue as early as possible, it is possible, is issues to do with coordination. We don’t really have like an information system sometimes that’s where we can get information as early as possible so that we help people as early as possible. They lack awareness so they need to be having instant information to see that instant information.

FRANK HERSEY [00:03:51] What about things like record keeping? Do you have files? The people who you work with, is it a patient relationship or are you just going into communities with more general help?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:04:04] We’re just going into the communities with much of our health, but we usually work with the ministry, the government ministries. So whatever the work we are doing we coordinate with the government ministries such as that from the districts to the village levels. So you find that they have their volunteers at that community level that usually have information around issues to do with information around the health. Information is there. Our structures, especially in Zimbabwe, everything there, is well structured. But I think the main challenge is that we have usually it’s that low level of what are called the village health workers. So the village health workers are the ones that have the information, but their information is usually paper-based. So they take the information, they take it to the clinic and usually they go to the clinic once a week, once a month to the clinic to give their reports, what are the issues in the communities. So sometimes this is the challenging issue, you’ve got a paper based system. And then the government is trying to put some like using phones as a way of passing information to the health clinics and then the health clinics can pass it to the district. But the major challenge has been some of the areas in the rural areas they don’t have network. So sometimes it is very difficult for them to trickle the information to the health delivery system.

FRANK HERSEY [00:05:30] What about the issue of identity? Do people have problems accessing services if they don’t have a certain type of identity document?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:05:41] So, as for the health delivery system, I don’t think they really have problems in accessing health, but there are other things that are linked to health that also affect people that don’t have identity documents. Because we find that we have a magnitude of people, there was this survey that was done actually in Matabeleland South, I think it was in 2018, which actually showed that more than 30% of children in Matabeleland North, did not have identity documents. So one thing that happens if I was a child, if I didn’t have an identity document, it means also my children do not have or will not be able to access. When when my child wants to access an identity documents, they need my ID to get access to documents. So what it means is that those people without identity, it is difficult for them to access school. So it also contributes to the literacy level because some of the health problems that we are facing is that people they don’t have that in-depth understanding of the health problems that they have, even prevention, even curing, this is because they don’t have much knowledge. So it also contributes to them not understanding the magnitude of the problems that they have. So it means if I don’t have an identity document, like most of the people that we have been meeting, who don’t have identity documents, it’s actually difficult for them to get identity documents for their children. So their children will not go to school. If they don’t go to school, it means it’s affecting their literacy level. If it’s affecting their literacy level it means everything they want to access, economy, you cannot go to work, you don’t have money even to, you can’t even get work, formal job for you to go if you don’t have an identity document. So it means if you want to go and access health care, you can’t because sometimes you need to pay money. Most of the things are not free. So if you need to pay money and you don’t have income with you, it also affects you as a person and you cannot access health delivery system. So that has been the most biggest challenge that we’ve been finding with people that don’t have identity documents and they cannot access any other. It’s yes, it’s difficult for them to access any other services within their communities, even if you want them to get some way. There was also an organization that I was working with, a women’s rights advocacy, and found that it was difficult for them to even if they want to get into the position, if they want to be a counsel, you need to have an identity. If you want to be an MP, you need to have an identity document, so if you don’t have, you can’t, if all those things that are within your communities. But for now, they can access the clinic, but you can only access free medical care. But if you want to pay, you can’t. So that has been one of the major challenges we have been facing with people that don’t have identity document. Even for the school children, they can’t write exams. They can learn uop to grade six, but when they get up to grade seven, when they want to write the final primary, what we call the primary examination or elementary school examinations, they can’t because they don’t have the IDs. So what they normally do is they end up with grade six. And so we have all those things that affects them.

FRANK HERSEY [00:09:05] So the issue is they can go to school, they can go in the building, into the classroom, and the teachers will teach them without ID, but they can’t then progress. They can’t prove who they are from to do an exam to then carry on in school.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:09:18] Yes, they can’t. In some schools, schools in rural areas, sometimes, it’s a community, they allow the school children to come to school. But in some schools, if one person even goes to grade one, they’ll ask for their identity. If you don’t have a birth certificate, they’ll tell you that you can’t attend school, you need your birth certificate to prove your age. Even if you go to school, you cannot even access some of the things because even if you want to play sports, let’s say a child is talented in sports, they will ask for your birth certificate. And if you don’t have a birth certificate, it isn’t easy to prove your age. So you will not be able to participate in sport at that high level, competitive level. So they are already disadvantaged in terms of even everything that they want to do. So that’s the other challenge. And also the other challenge that we face, we have also been facing people who are like younger children who were raped or were sexually abused or sexually exploited. And according to the international guidelines, the UNCRC [UN Convention on the Rights of the Child], any person who’s below the age of 18 years, they are children. So sometimes if they’re sexually abused, it’s actually difficult for them to prove their age if they don’t have birth certificate. We have had instances like that where a child has been sexually abused, the case is reported to the police, the case goes to the court, but now it’s hard for us to prove that the child is below the age of 18 and they would require the DNA, and sometimes the DNA is difficult to access. So it’s actually some of those health issues that are also affecting children without identity documents.

FRANK HERSEY [00:11:05] So it feels like it’s not necessarily the most immediate impact of not having ID, especially for areas like health. It feels like it’s affecting society much more generally. And do you think that’s something that people are aware of in Zimbabwe, the people you work with, do you think people are aware that identity or not having a birth certificate is holding people back, and I suppose even holding society and the economy back?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:11:33] Yes it’s something that has been known because ever since the other survey that has been shared, now people are aware that it’s atually impacting a large number of children. Initially most people it was not something were aware that not having documentation affects someone, but they didn’t know the impact, how it was affecting the population at large in Zimbabwe. But you now find that it has become a topical issue in the country to say no we need to ensure that all the children are having the documentation, they have the birth certificates, and they’ve been going to the communities and trying to make sure that every child is getting a birth certificate or even an identity document for those people that do not have the identity document. One of the challenging things that makes people don’t have an identity document is that access, accessibility, because most of our systems are centralized. So if it means if I’m staying in a rural area, I need to go to a major town or a major city to get my my birth certificate or to get my ID. So if it’s not, if I don’t get where it’s needed, if I don’t have a bank account, if I don’t want to open a bank account, I will not need an ID. If I’m not finding a job I’ll not need an ID so I’ll not find it as it’s important to get IDs. So those are some of the findings of the research that was done. The government and other partners have been trying to get into the communities to try and assist people to get identities. But still, the other challenges and limiting factors that are affecting those people, for example, if the mother doesn’t have a birth certificate or the father doesn’t have a birth certificate, an identity document, an ID, the child can’t get a birth certificate. So this this has been the major factor and people are aware that yes if you don’t have an identity document you can’t access anything. But it’s difficult. And there are some ignorance, like we have also been capacitating in another organization that I was working with also we are capacitating mothers. There are some single mothers that say I’m waiting for the father so that I’ll be able to get the birth certificate for the child. So they’ll be waiting for the father and the father is nowhere to be found. And the child is now already 19 years old and the child doesn’t have a birth certificate. So we’re trying to make them aware and the importance of that child having a birth certificate and trying to assist them to actually ensure that their children are getting their birth certficate wherever they can go so that the child can get a birth certifcate. I still remember assisting this couple, the mother was married, but she divorced from the father but used the maiden surname to give to the child and the child got married to a woman, so they said, no, I need to first change my name so that I get my original surname so that I’m able to get my children’s birth certificates. And then after talking to them and making them aware that it’s important for these children to get their birth certificate and it’s their fundamental right for them to have their birth certificate, to have their identity, to have names that they identified with. And then they actually found that it was actually true in they had to go and source identity document for the children. So some people are aware, but they don’t really see the actual consequences that not having an identity document brings into their life. As long as they are not looking for a job, as long as they are doing their own thing, in Zimbabwe most people are now doing their income generating project. So if they’re doing their income generating project, they don’t need a passport, they don’t need to open a bank account, they’ve got their pillow account. They don’t see the importance of having an identity document.

FRANK HERSEY [00:15:38] Because they’re they’re working for cash.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:15:41] Yes, they’re working for cash.

FRANK HERSEY [00:15:42] Yeah I can see why you could maybe go to a certain extent in life thinking that you don’t need it and then one day something’s going to happen though, you know, maybe you do want to get married or get divorced or something. And then how would somebody, how would an adult try to get an ID document? Would they have to first get a birth certificate before they can get anything else?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:16:06] Yes, you need to have a birth certificate before you can get anything else. So that’s what you need to do. So our system, what it does, one of which has been a major challenging thing, is if you are old, it becomes difficult and more difficult for you to get a birth certificate. I remember there was a lady I was trying to assist in getting an ID. She didn’t have a birth certificate, her parents were dead, and the way they died they also didn’t have any identity documents. It was difficult. At least if they had identity they would have just taken the death certificate and actually get a birth certificate and also get an ID. So they were told to go back to the community, to the school which used to go, and that headmaster has to write a letter and the chief to say that they know that person and her name. She was born on this day and also come with someone from your family who can confirm that you are you are part of this family. So it becomes a very difficult now because you now need resources to go back and try and it can also be a back and forth thing, back and forth thing. So one of the things that people have been advocating for is this process is to be made easier for them, for people to get birth certificate, and also if it could be given at birth, a birth certificate, if all this can be decentralized, the system, to say the moment I deliver my child in the clinic or in a hospital I can just get my identity document right there and then. Rather than for me to have to go to a centralized place to get a birth certificate or even the IDs, they have to be decentralized in such a way that I just have to walk maybe five kilometers or less to get my identity document. It would make things easier. And maybe continued awareness of the people, the importance of having identity documents. It would also help in terms of reducing the number of people that do not have identity documents.

FRANK HERSEY [00:18:04] I want to go back to something you said there about death certificates. Does that mean that say there’s a family with, you know, a few generations without birth certificates, without ID. If, you know, perhaps you’re an adult and your elderly parent dies, is there a process there where, can they get a death certificate without themselves having had a birth certificate?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:18:31] They don’t get the death certificate. It’s actually very difficult for them to get a death certificate if they didn’t have actually an identity document because it has to be shown from the records that this person was existing and they cancel that record and they produce a death certificate. So it’s actually very difficult. And in the rural areas, someone can even be buried without even no-one knowing someone was buried cos they’ll just dig the grave and they bury someone. And there is no tracking system to say the graveyards that are in the country, and the death is recorded or not. So it can actually happen that it can be actually a generation of people that have been going on and on and on without birth certificates. And usually it becomes a cycle because if I don’t have an identity document, if there’s a high possibility that my child also doesn’t have an identity document, and it goes on and on and on and on like that.

FRANK HERSEY [00:19:33] And if your parent died and a death certificate was produced, could you use that death certificate as part of your own way to get your own identity?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:19:45] Yes, you can use that death certificate to get your own identity, but there’s also a need to get proof to say those are your parents, because anyone can use anyone’s death certificate to say, yes, that was my father. So they have to have a proof. So it’s actually maybe you can use your your uncle who’s got the same surname as your parents to actually confirm that yes, this is our child, this was my brother’s child. Or you can have maybe a letter, if you’re from the rural areas you can have a letter from the chief to confirm that yes, we know that this is Tafadzwa, she’s the daughter of so and so, who died on that who’s got the death certificate. So that’s the process that usually happens but you can actually get a birth certificate using a death certificate as long as there’s proof those are your parents.

FRANK HERSEY [00:20:35] So it sounds like local chiefs have quite a pivotal role. They’re very important people. I was wondering, you must meet them every now and again, maybe quite frequently in your work. I was wondering how do they learn about all these things? They seem to have to deal with so many different situations and deal with bureaucracy, I was wondering what sorts of training do they get?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:20:57] Unfortunately they don’t get any training. It’s something that they have to learn about in their work. Because one of the important things why they understand this issue is because they stay within the community. And the way our rural areas are structured in Zimbabwe is that it becomes like it’s a one community, when you’re in your community, it becomes like one community. So some of the issues that will be happening within their communities they easily know them. And then there’s this issue that is happening in this community. But what I really get you is that sometimes since they have those important roles, they need to be having additional trainings that they are supported so that sometimes they have like they have the expertise and they have the capacity to deal with different issues that they meet on day to day basis, but currently they don’t really get so much training. But what we normally do is as local implementing partners, international and local whenever we are having programs that we are coming with which also try to sensitize them, also try to involve them in the training that we are having so that they have a little bit of an understanding of the things that we are doing in those communities. So sometimes that’s the capacity, sometimes that they get in those communities that they are.

FRANK HERSEY [00:22:13] And I suppose one of the issues is that if these village chiefs are producing letters to vouch for people, how can somebody know that this letter is actually from a village chief? Would that need to be a personal relationship with the village chief? Need to know the person who works in the nearest civil registry for dealing with birth certificates, etc. How would they trust that something is from a chief?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:22:41] I think there’s a gap there because there was there was maybe that’s why they needed different information from different areas. But you also need to get a letter from the chief, also need to get a letter from maybe if you went to school. They also needs the letter from the school and maybe they would also need a confirmation if your parents are dead, they also need a confirmation from maybe one of the relatives that has got an identity document so that they’re able to triangulate all those things so that they confirm it’s true. But in every system, I think there’s always flaws. And maybe sometimes some people can try to get around the system and cheat the system. I know, but I think that’s why they’re trying to triangulate the information so that they are certain that you are claiming who you are claiming to be.  With some people, they’ve actually done it differently, like for example, if I didn’t have an ID and my father didn’t have an ID, I’d use my uncle’s ID or my my grandfather’s ID. I remember that some people actually had their grandfather’s as their dates on their birth certificate so that they would just be able to get an identity document so that people were actually going to that extent. Or my uncle, my uncle, my dad’s father, I can just go and claim that he’s my dad and have a birth certificate then everything is over. So people can do whatever they can, some people are going to that extent to get an identity document.

FRANK HERSEY [00:24:12] So you could end up with somebody who’s 40 and they have a document of somebody who’s 75.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:24:20] Yes, that’s very true. I know someone who had, the dad was around, it was a grandfather, the grandfather that was around when she was 21, the dad was like 72. So that was easily a grandfather. But literally that was their dad, but he was their dad had to actually passed away without getting a certificate for her. But she, the grandfather knew the importance of having a birth certificate, so he just said let’s go get a birth certificate for you. And they went to get out the grandmother. So the grandmother was the mother and the granddad was the father.

FRANK HERSEY [00:25:01] Yeah. Just because it’s the only way they could do it. I was just thinking about the resource that village chiefs are or local chiefs are. Is there a difference then in towns and cities where I don’t know whether this is an equivalent network of more urban local representatives? And is it in some ways better to be in the countryside where you have this relationship with somebody who’s respected and can vouch for you? Are there any advantages there to actually being in the village rather than being in a city trying to get ID?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:25:37] So what I can see is that there is that seesaw kind of thing between the urban and the rural. In the rural, when you actually don’t have anyone, it’s actually easy because you know the chief, you know the village, the school that you learned, maybe you learned at they still remember you, they still know you. So it’s actually maybe fairly easy to get to some of those documents. And then in the urban area, in the urban areas, sometimes it’s actually very difficult. It’s a system that most people, they don’t know each other. They just live in the city. And you go. But one of the advantages with the city is that most people in the way in the city, because it’s the schools in the in the cities, they’re usually stricter. When you come into school, they usually learn to see the birth certificate before you can even start your grade one. So sometimes you’re forced to actually have a birth certificate for your child because your child has to go to school. So sometimes it actually forces you. So if you don’t have anyone, one thing about the urban setup is it’s easy for them because they can actually just try to find someone with the same surname who can assist. And one of the thing that needs it is that the birth report sometimes when the child is still I think below the age of five they need a birth record, so it’s easier. You can just go to the clinic. With the clinic it’s easier, the clinics and hospitals, the network is easy. You can easily get transport to go to the clinic to the next area, and most of the transport is usually less than a dollar. To get to transport to go to the clinic. And most of the clinics, you can just walk depending on where you were delivered, where the baby was delivered. So sometimes it’s actually very easy to ensure that you get a birth record, as long as you have a health card you can just go and say I delivered, here I need a birth record, just look into their records and give your birth records, and then you can just go and get a birth certificate for your child. If there’s no one, if you can’t your birth record, you can just get someone to assist you to get a birth certificate. That’s how people have been cheating the system. So it’s easier. I find it’s a seesaw kind of relationship between the urban and the rural.

FRANK HERSEY [00:27:52] So you said you need to find somebody with the same surname. So that doesn’t necessarily have to be a real relative. It could just be a neighbor, someone living nearby who has the same surname, who can try to help you.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:28:06] Yeah, but it’s not just anybody because usually, usually in Zimbabwe, if you’re most people with the same name you’re having a relationship. And it’s actually very difficult to just go to a person and say, I need you to help me with a birth certificate, it usually has to be someone who you know, who you trust who’s your relatives  who is closer to you and understand your problem. But it’s usually easier in the urban area to get a birth certificate. As long as you’ve got your birth record for your child, as a woman, you’ve got your birth certificate, you’ve got your national identity document can easily go to the to the registry and gets the birth certificate for a child. It’s usually an easy process. But because if people have the challenges that I alluded to earlier, to say some people are just ignorant and they say I will wait for the father to come so that I get the birth certificate for the child. So if the child gets older, the older the child gets, the difficult the more difficult it is for you to just get a birth certificate easily. But if the child is below five years, it’s very easy to get. You go to the clinic and get the birth record, you go to the registry with your ID, you should get the birth certificate of your child. But because of that challenge in the urban area that some people wait for the husband to come and then can get, it’s just an awareness issue. And when it comes to the other people that are in urban areas, one of the things that I’ve seen with people that are in the urban areas, especially if I don’t a birth certificate, it’s difficult for me to get a birth certificate for my child. That’s when you have a challenge. That’s when some people cheat the system. If they feel it’s important for my child to get the birth certificate, I don’t want them to be like what I was, that’s when they will use their relatives to say can you assist me in getting an identity document for my child and they get identity documents for their children. They cheat the system. But in the urban areas that don’t even have the birth certificates. And there’s a magnitude of people that don’t have documentation and they are adults, their children also don’t have birth certificates.

FRANK HERSEY [00:30:16] If it carries on generation after generation, what’s going to have to change? Is the civil society trying to push for legal changes to change the whole system so people can get an ID document as an adult, even though they missed out on a birth certificate earlier in life?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:30:37] I think the legal system needs to be changed. I believe if a child, the government has to force people to get their children birth certificate, if parents cannot get a birth certificate for their children, government have to do something so that at least, I don’t know what they can call it. It can be called a pseudo birth certificate or whatever, so that a child at least have an identity document. And also even for the adults, they need to find a way that they can do to ensure that everyone who’s identified not to be having a documentation should be having a documentation. And it should also be an easy process that if I going to get my identity document, I don’t need to be required with a lot of things that I need. This needs a simplified system. Just like if I want to change my name, to say I no longer want to be identified as Tafadzwa, I should just be going to the registry and say now I need to be known as Nianda or something and things are easily changed and I get my documentation. If you look at most people that don’t have documentation, it’s not even their fault. And if you listen to their stories, they are always the ones who are the most vulnerable ones are the most people that need documenation. And usually if you look at them, they are orphans, the people that maybe have been looked after by other relatives and they’ve not even tried to find birth certificate for those people. So that people tend to grow older and they grow older, they get married when they get married, they don’t have IDs. And then what do you do? Nothing you can’t get at a birth certificate for your child if you don’t have a birth certificate. So for those people with this situation, there should be a system that makes everything easy. As long as someone can prove that I’m an orphan, I don’t have anyone. They should be given a birth certificate and identity document. Also, I feel the system should be decentralized because the moment it I have to go maybe more than 30, 40 kilometers and I have to fork out my money to go and get an identity document, I will not. As long as there’s nothing that is pushing me to get that identity document I will not get the identity document. So that’s what the government should try and do to decentralize the system.

FRANK HERSEY [00:33:00] Do you see any signs of change in the government that they might be willing to make changes to legislation to create new ways to get documents?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:33:10] Yeah, I see the willingness is there because they’ve been pushed by the civil society and the willingness is there. But what I see as a major challenge is supporting the government, it becomes expensive because there’s so much civil society trying to support them, they’ll say the civil society should come and support us, but they would also want to be supported, including allowance, including the (inaudible), so it becomes expensive to support them. But if they put it as the strategy that they want to do and the willingness to say this is what we want to do, this is how we are going to do it, civil society will come and help us with A, B, C, D, actually getting into the system, into the communities, other than to say maybe if you want to help them with the decentralization, we find that maybe only 20% of the budget is going to the communities and the 80% of the budget is going to other things, that’s when the challenge becomes and we start questioning the willingness, I know the government is willing to do this and it’s something they’ve identified as issues, that’s why they’ve been doing leads into the communities, to try and support the communities to get their identity document in different communities. But this system, I think for it to work it has to just be decentralized so that wherever I am… Because you find that.. I lost my identity document, I got robbed and I lost my wallet and I wanted to renew my identity document. Do you know what time I had to wake up to actually get my identity document? I had to wake up around 3 a.m. in the dark, so that I would be there by 5:00. And there was already a long queue and I just waited in that long queue, and the guy came and said, we are only giving identity documents to 60 people. And I think I was around 100 and something.

FRANK HERSEY [00:35:12] In the queue?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:35:13] You guys can go, you can come back tomorrow. Imagine. But it’s something that I cannot move around without. I cannot go anywhere without any identity document. So it becomes very challenging. It’s only the advantage is that I’ve got my license, I’ve got my passport, right now I resorted to using the license. But imagine if I didn’t have a license. If I didn’t have a passport, what will I be using now to get my money from the bank to do other things, even when I’m, you know, that kind of thing. So as the system is not it’s not as centralized in one place. Imagine maybe I’ll have used like $50, to wait in the queue and I’m told to come back tomorrow. And I have to use another $10, $15 to go back and come back tomorrow. They are using their money. So it becomes to be a very challenging system. That’s why I’m saying you should be advocating for decentralization of documentation so that you can access it within our community any time I want. It doesn’t have to be [a mobilization] whereby they go into the community, they do mobile registration because sometimes even maybe I’m not in the community, maybe I’m not sick, I’m not mobile, not able to move. But there’s a day that I’m able to move. I can just go to a center and get my ID document and go.

FRANK HERSEY [00:36:33] Gosh. Well, it sounds like there’s potential for change. Do you think that there’s going to be any any breakthrough any time soon?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:36:43] I don’t think so, because usually the major thing that will be there is citing resources, we don’t have resources. We don’t have resources. We want to A, B, C D, but we don’t have resources. So I don’t think it would be something that can be done very soon.

FRANK HERSEY [00:36:57] Hmm, at least there are organizations with staff like you who are out helping in the community wherever possible and in the ways that you can, and even helping people get identity documents.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:37:10] Yes.

FRANK HERSEY [00:37:12] Well, Tafadzwa, thank you so much for this conversation today. It’s been really interesting to hear about some of the specifics, but I think it’s just very interesting to hear about the way that all of society is affected, even with things like literacy as a result of identity being a barrier. So I just wondered if you’ve got any any other points that we might not have covered, any other areas that you’d like to mention about identity?

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:37:40] I think we’ve talked most about the things, but the only thing is that then I just wanted to emphasize is most of the NGOs that are working I think they also need to to find a way that they can design some of these things to identify those people that don’t have identity documents and see, draft what we can call maybe a referral pathway, where they can assist in terms of drafting a referal pathway if there is someone that doesn’t have an identity document we can refer them to somewhere. Because there are other legal organizations that can also help? Like in Zimbabwe we’ve got ZWLA [Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association], the [] they can also help in terms of people getting identity documents legally, even if there are legal issues that are concerning. So this is one thing I wanted to maybe for other civil society that are working in the communities to try and work together to come up with a referral pathway system that actually identified these people. It’s not a documentation and see how best they can be referred and where they can be referred and be assisted. That’s what I just wanted to add on.

FRANK HERSEY [00:38:50] I see your point. So if you’re working in terms of nutrition, then another NGO might be working with education, and you come across people without identity, rather than you or your different organizations trying to help that person get a document, you’d send them to another, more specialized organization to help with identity.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:39:12] Yes.

FRANK HERSEY [00:39:12] Maybe someone will listen to this to this, to this podcast, and maybe they’ll set that up with you. Fingers crossed. Fingers crossed. Well, thank you so much. And I’ll keep in touch. And I look forward to hearing how things go in Zimbabwe and whether there’s any changes coming soon for helping people get a legal identity.

TAFADZWA MAVUDZI [00:39:34] Thank you very much, Frank. Thank you so much for the conversation. It was interesting.

FRANK HERSEY [00:39:39] Thank you. That was Tafadzwa Mavudzi, monitoring and evaluation specialist for the NGO Nutrition Action Zimbabwe, one of many organizations that ends up trying to help people get legal identity alongside doing their own work. To find out more about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.9, to listen to more episodes, or get the full transcripts, go to the ID16.9 podcast website at ID169.com. And see if you think we’re on track for legal identity for all by 2030.