Issa’s Story

Issa is a 19 year-old Nubian and resident of Mako’ngeni in Kibera. He had  an ID card, but needed a birth certificate to get a job. To get a birth certificate he had to find the birth certificates of his father, mother, grandfather, and grandmother.

Issa had a national ID card, but felt if he had a birth certificate it would help him find a job. Issa was able to obtain the ID card before the 2013 elections by using his school leaving certificate instead of a birth certificate to prove his birth date. Yet during the vetting process, he was also asked to bring the birth certificates of his father, mother, grandfather, and grandmother. He faced many challenges in getting an ID card, but the process of obtaining a birth certificate was much harder.

For three months, he tried to get through the birth certificate application process on his own. He repeatedly went to the relevant government office in order to submit his application – each attempt was met with more requests from the officials for additional documents. Issa felt the officials treated him harshly and may have made the process more difficult in order to increase their chances of a bribe. After many failed attempts to submit his application, he gave up on the proces.

A while later, a friend told Issa about the Nubian Rights Forum paralegal program. He went into the office and said: “I want a  birth certificate.” Asia, the paralegal assigned to this case, asked Issa to bring in the documentation he had been using to apply. Upon review of these documents, the paralegal advised him that the papers were sufficient to support his birth certificate application. With the help of the paralegal, Issa filled out the application forms. The paralegal took the forms to the office, submitted the application, and told the government office she would follow-up on the process. Issa stopped by the NRF office occasionally to check on the status – with frequent communication, he truly felt he and Asia were working on the process together.

Then one day, Asia called Issa to let him know his birth certificate was ready. Issa said “it was the happiest day” – he felt the birth certificate was a key document as a citizen of Kenya. He knew that with this document, he could obtain other forms of identity papers. He plans to apply for a passport and will work with the NRF paralegals on that process as well, because he trusts them.

November 1, 2014 | Namati Author