Register to vote and vote to better your future – that was the message from an Eastridge youth who will be making her cross for the first time in this year’s provincial and national elections.
Sharon-Lee Williams, 18, from Eastridge, has had to overcome a lot in her young life, including the deaths of two siblings and fighting – and overcoming – substance abuse.
“Registering to vote was an exciting experience as it was my first time. Young people should vote, it’s the start of something new. You don’t know what the outcome will be if you don’t vote,” said Sharon-Lee.
She said she would want to vote for a party that will improve her future. “When you know you have a plan for your future, do not put it in jeopardy. It’s so easy forgetting about your plans and staying focused on that, you can lose yourself trying to run from your problems. You need to face them head-on. If you’re going to work on it, things will change for the better,” said Sharon-Lee.
She is the youngest of five children. Her eldest brother, who had bipolar disorder, was robbed and stabbed to death in 2015. Her other brother was killed in 2016 on Christmas Day. “The death of my brothers also influenced the way I lived. I loved them dearly.”
In 2017 when Sharon-Lee was in her matric year at Beacon Hill High School in Beacon Valley, she drank a lot. “When I drank it felt as though all my problems disappeared from reality but I was lying to myself thinking that it was going to help me.”
It was her late eldest brother’s interest in the Chrysalis Academy that sparked her interest too. She applied and went to the academy for three months last year, from September to November.
The theme of the course was “Finding yourself, Finding your voice”. “This helped me think about what I would like to do after I finished the course. There are so many young people in my community who are caught up in drugs, they do not receive help from anyone. I introduced many of my friends and community members to this programme as it has already helped me so much,” said Sharon-Lee.
“I have changed, I am not the person I used to be. I don’t drink anymore and have been clean for four months,” said Sharon-Lee who is currently an intern with the Department of Community Safety.
She would like a career where she helps young people. “Sometimes parents don’t understand why their children may be acting out. The time of their upbringing is different to ours. I would bridge this gap.”
Her mother, Emily Williams, 53, is very proud of her daughter, who is the only one of her children who matriculated. “I am thankful for Chrysalis, they have really changed her way of living and the way she thinks. I am proud of her achievements. I am confident that she will walk a good path for her future,” she said, adding that parents should never stop praying for their children.
On Saturday January 26, Sharon-Lee was escorted by DA leader Mmusi Maimane and other senior party leaders and members to the Town Centre library voting station to register to vote in the upcoming elections.
“We can focus on a South Africa where all of us are included. This is the dream and that’s why this election is so crucial. I urge all South Africans to go and register to vote. Let us build a dream of one South Africa for all. The most unemployed people in the country are young people. Sharon-Lee taking power into her hands makes me so proud,” Mr Maimane said.