Community volunteer helps build better futures for the Sama Bajau through birth registration
09 August 2023
For International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, UNHCR shares the story of a Sama Bajau volunteer who advocates for birth registration in her community
PATIKUL, SULU — On a registration day in the municipality, Norina Sampang is providing support to Sama Bajau parents who have queued to register the birth of their children. At 28 years old, Norina has been volunteering at the barangay hall to help Sama Bajaus communicate with non-Sama speakers and guide them on the processes and documentation for the birth registration process.
“I love doing this because I am able to help my neighbors,” she shared, adding, “At the same time, I feel proud and happy that I can be of service to my community.”
Norina is one of the Sama Bajau community volunteers from Barangay Tubig Tanah in Patikul who patiently go around the community to inform parents of the birth registration initiative and help them prepare the documents needed for the activity.
But as she assists her fellow Sara Bajau, Norina is also lining up herself — to register the birth of her two nieces and a nephew who were left in her care by their birth mother. As their sole guardian, she tends to all their needs, including their education, with the hope that all three of them will finish school and become who they want to be when they grow up.
Millions of people around the world do not have any proof of nationality. According to the 2022 Mid-Year Trends Report, more than 4.3 million individuals are estimated to be stateless or of undetermined nationality as of end of June 2022. When someone does not have any document to prove who they are, they may be excluded from access to social services. They won’t be able to go see a doctor, travel, work legally, open a bank account, get married, or even go to school.
As a volunteer in her barangay, Norina greatly emphasizes the importance of having a birth certificate to her fellow Sama Bajau in the community, as many have yet to be registered. When people come to her for advice, she informs them of the benefits unlocked by a birth certificate for mobility, healthcare, work and especially, for the education of their children. At home, Norina also ensures that her nephew and nieces understand the value and need for their birth document.
With the help of donors, government agencies, community volunteers and partners, Norina’s nephew and nieces, together with more than 460 Sama Bajau received their birth certificates in September 2022. The Joint Strategy for Addressing Childhood Statelessness initiative by UNHCR and UNICEF opened an opportunity for Sama Bajau and unregistered children within the context of forced displacement due to armed conflict to secure a birth certificate for free.
Now, Norina has one less thing to worry about. She is extremely grateful for the chance to have her nieces and nephew finally registered for a birth certificate. With this, they can continue and finish their education – their ultimate goal for themselves and for their family.
When asked if she would continue to volunteer for her community, Norina beamingly replied with a “Yes”, and added “As long as I could, in any way possible.”