In celebrating the country's 30 years of freedom and democracy, is important to pause and reflect on South Africa's strides and progress in protecting the rights of children. 

Children in South Africa live in a society with a constitution that has the highest regard for their rights and for the equality and dignity of all citizens. Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse is not only a basic value but also an obligation clearly set out in Article 28 of the South African Constitution.

For more than 40 years, SOS Children's Villages in South Africa has been providing alternative care and child protection services to over 700 children in our villages and over 4 500 children in our Family Strengthening Programme.

Our FSP interventions for children are aimed at equipping families to better care for their children so that complete family breakdown is avoided and no child should grow up alone.

Our programmes aim to equip each child with skills so they can grow into a self-reliant adult, who can become a contributing member of society. We have forums with children where they express how best they can be protected by their caregivers and the society they grow up in.

This is a common mistake parents make, writing children's names, especially on their school bags, so that it is easily identifiable should it get lost. This makes them easy targets.

During this week, SOS Children's Village Mthatha invites all the local Child and Youth Care Centres for a two-hour march to raise their voices against human trafficking, of which children are the biggest victims.

At every stage of their lives, children at SOS Children's Villages across South Africa are afforded psychological, emotional, psycho-social care, fully supported by professional social workers and a team of other childcare experts.

It is possible to build a more sustainable and equitable future for tomorrow's adults. It starts with strengthening families so that children can grow up with stable relationships. We must provide increased social protection services and direct support to struggling families so they can stay together. It is essential that we secure access to education for all children and youth and invest in reducing the digital divide.

"As South Africans, we hold the power to shape the future for our children and youth. It is our collective responsibility to choose representatives who prioritise the optimal development and safety of our children," says Kgomotso Loate, a Child Protection Officer. 

"By electing leaders dedicated to investing in education, healthcare, mental health support and robust protective services, we lay the foundation for a healthier, safer and more prosperous future. Let us come together to ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive and succeed, making informed choices at the ballot box for the sake of our children," concludes Loate. 

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*Image courtesy of contributor