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They can’t vote. We can. They need our help.

Are you voting next Wednesday? (I hope so.) Here’s something to think about.

You’re not just voting for yourself — you’re voting on behalf of a whole lot of South Africans who can’t. Eighteen million of them, in fact — 37% of South Africans are under the age of 18, and they are the ones who are most impacted by the political parties and policies our votes put in place.

I don’t have kids of my own. But I have nieces. My friends have kids. And the future of South Africa depends very much on the world we create for our youngest citizens.

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That’s why I got involved with the Sizweni Hear Us campaign. A joint effort by Media Monitoring Africa and several of South Africa’s leading children’s NGOs, Sizweni is aimed at getting the public to put pressure on politicians and the media to make children a priority these elections.

South Africa has the best constitution in the world when it comes to children’s rights. Yet headlines like these are a reminder that what is powerful on paper is meaningless unless it is applied in real life — and that means that those who govern us should be competent and ethical, and focused on delivery.

Sizweni site

Here’s how all of you can help to make children a priority when we go to the polls on May 7.

1. Ask politicians and political parties what they plan to do for South Africa’s citizens under the age of 18. Have a look at the Sizweni website for a quick and easy guide to the most important issues. Write to your news website, tag the campaign on Facebook and tweet politicians directly.

2. Ask the media to give more coverage to children’s issues. This is as important after the elections as now. We pay attention to what the media covers. Use Facebook and Twitter, call into your local radio stations, write to your newspaper, text your TV station. You have lots of power as a consumer of media, so use it!

3. Ask everyone you know to do the same. The Sizweni campaign is restricted to social media because of budget limitations, but you can help spread the word far and wide.

The lives of South Africa’s children will not change for the better unless we, the people who can vote, demand change for those who can’t.

It’s up to us.

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