MY MALAWI, MY IDENTITYApr 23, 2018
It is 8 am in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city as a group of pedestrians and cyclists make their way to the District Council offices.
One man stands out, as he pushes his bicycle into the compound. He makes his way to a line of desks that have been set up outside the Council Offices. He holds out a piece of paper that appears worn and crumpled, to the person behind one of the desks. In less than 10 minutes after he entered, Gilbert, who works as a watchman at an Insurance Agency in the city, has his National Identity Card, safely in his pocket.
“I did not expect it to be this easy,” he admits, when asked about what he thought of the process of the card collection. “I came early because I thought I would have to wait in line for the whole day before collecting my card. They asked me which center I registered at and then I was told which desk to go to. They looked at my receipt and found my name amongst the cards.”
This proof identity will enable Gilbert to access a multitude of services, including opening a bank account and to exercise his fundamental rights as a Malawian citizen
“This card is important to me. Most institutions now require some proof of identity to employ you and I am trying to find a better paid job. This is why I came to collect it,” said Gilbert.
Lilongwe City is now in its fourth month of distribution of ID cards. Collection centres in local schools were open for over a month and head teachers and teachers who administered the centers were crucial for the operation. Now the remaining cards are being distributed at the District Council Office.
In Lilongwe, Linda Kathumba is the Acting Assistant District Registrar at the Council. Her unit is now responsible for the national registration, birth and death registrations for the city of Lilongwe. After executing the logistical operation of sorting and distributing the ID cards, Linda’s team, comprising of Logistics Officers, Data Preparation Clerks and temporary assistants has been established as part of the continuous registration in all 28 districts. The National Registration Bureau is working to secure that all citizens are granted the on-going opportunity to register and obtain a legal identity as they turn 16 years of age.
Linda stresses that as a District Council, the collaboration they have with traditional leaders and school officials has been crucial and has helped make the work easier and to create more community awareness about the continuous registration. The traditional Leaders and the Block Leaders in Lilongwe continue to encourage their community members to register and collect their cards. The school officials, and especially the head teachers are also helping with civic education and outreach messages when they encounter people who do not have adequate knowledge about the exercise. She further explains that some religious leaders are also using their platforms to explain the importance of the National Identity cards to Malawians.
“We are urging everyone to take good care of their National Identity Cards. This card holds very important information and as we are moving with the changing times, this card will be required for the citizens to access most services in the country.,” said Linda.
The District Council receives up to 500 people in a day coming to collect the cards, and approximately 30 people a day coming to register for the National Identity Card. Linda and her staff sees this as a positive trend.
“We encourage people to first check the status of their cards by texting *676# on both Airtel and TNM numbers, before coming to the Council. This is a free service and can be done on any type of a mobile phone,” Linda reminds.
The continuous registration and distribution of the National Identity Cards is currently underway at each of the allocated National Registration Bureau offices, situated at the District Commissioner’s Office in all 28 districts in the country.
The national registration project is led by Malawi Government’s National Registration Bureau (NRB) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and financial support from the Government of Malawi, UNDP, the Department for International Development (DFID), European Union (EU), Irish Aid, the Government of Norway and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).