Independence: it’s what we all want for children everywhere. We hope they’ll have the chance to grow up healthy, go to school, and have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

Above all, we want our children to count.

Many of us take it for granted, but receiving a birth certificate is crucial for all of this. When you’re counted on the day that you’re born, it’s the first step toward accessing all the opportunities that lead to being an independent self-sufficient adult. NYHQ2011-2488

Unfortunately, there are children all around the world missing out on this opportunity today. Approximately 290 million children around the world don’t have birth certificates. As a result, it will be much harder for them to thrive throughout the rest of their lives.

Without a birth certificate or other identification, children often find it difficult to enroll in school, see a doctor, and find gainful employment later in life. Adrift in their communities, these children often become uncounted faces vulnerable to kidnapping, trafficking, and war crimes. It’s especially difficult for girls, who are at higher risk of abduction for sexual slavery, child marriage, and under-age recruitment for armed groups.

These children deserve the same thing that every child in the world deserves: the opportunity to lead a full, happy, healthy life. That’s why, more and more, developing countries and donor countries are joining together to create innovative programs and campaigns that target birth registration. And already, the progress has been amazing.

For instance, UNICEF worked with local authorities in Guinea to register more than 20,000 children and refugees fleeing armed conflict from Western Africa in the early 2000s. The effort placed an emphasis on girls, and had the added benefit of equipping these children with health records and connecting them with child protection services.

In Afghanistan, local authorities partnered with UNICEF and local health officials to register two million children in under two years while also administering polio vaccinations. And right now, the United States Congress is considering The Girls Count Act, which would support programs to improve birth registration in partnership with developing countries.

These efforts are crucial, because when children have birth certificates, they have a much better shot at standing on their own two feet for the rest of their lives. When they are able to get an eduation, find jobs, and contribute to the local economy, they are doing more than just reaching their own potential. They are beginning a virtuous cycle that helps entire communities rise up.

So please, join the campaign. Take action and join the Girl Up campaign to urge your member of Congress to make every girl count, because every girl matters.

No matter where they live, every child deserves the same opportunity to thrive and live with dignity. Let’s work together to turn their rights into realities.