The last three years I have spent as a member of the UK Youth Parliament has proved to me that the chamber is where young people’s voices belong. It has shown me that young people are a driving force behind change and will create a better, brighter future for our world.
UK Youth Parliament is formed up of a diverse group of young people with 53% female members, 34% identifying as BAME, and 23% identifying as having a disability. This is something all of our members are extremely proud of as this shows that, no matter who you are, that you do have a voice and will be listened to. Imogen Walsh, the steering group member for the North West, said: “The Youth Parliament consistently has a gender-balanced cohort and is a safe place for LGBT+ young people, respecting preferred pronouns and names.”
UK Youth Parliament provides opportunities for many young people, especially the marginalised. Becoming a member has helped them develop confidence and feel welcomed in politics. Meera Saravanan, Member of Youth Parliament for Trafford, said: “The Youth Parliament has given so many young people a platform to stand up for what they believe in.”
We also hold the largest youth consultation in Europe every year. The Make Your Mark ballot highlights the key issues for young people across the UK, which is taken to the House of Commons and debated. Stuart Dunne, CEO of Youth Focus North West, commends the Members of Youth Parliament’s work saying: “The young people in the UK Youth Parliament do a wonderful job in enthusing and engaging their peers.” In 2018, the Make Your Mark ballot received over one million votes. This is our highest ever turnout and proves that young people are very politically engaged.
I highly commend Members of the Youth Parliament, past and present, on their campaigning. When I was only 14-years-old I was surrounded by inspirational people such as Haroon Irshad (former Member of Youth Parliament for Birmingham), whose courage to stand up for what he believes in never failed to inspire me; Jess Leigh (Former Member of Youth Parliament for Cheshire), who fought for young women to speak up about sexual harassment emboldened myself and many other young women to do so; and Emma Greenwood (Member of Youth Parliament for Bury), who persistently campaigns to protect our planet’s future. I could write all day about every member who has inspired me, but then we’d have a list three hundred people long.
Members of Youth Parliament consistently run fantastic campaigns to aid the young people that they represent. For example, Alex Davies (Member of Youth Parliament for Stockport) runs No Child Left Behind UK, which campaigns towards increasing support given to bereaved young people; Eva Carroll (Former Member of Youth Parliament for Liverpool) ran a very successful campaign around street harassment, and 43 of this year’s Members of Youth Parliament came together to create a video campaign to thank all key workers for their efforts at this time.
I have never felt more welcome than when I attend UK Youth Parliament events. When I was younger, I thought being involved in politics was impossible. Now, because of the UK Youth Parliament, I have been given a voice on a national platform to represent young people. For me, the UK Youth Parliament bridged the gap between me – a young, working-class woman to the House of Commons chamber. I hope that the UK Youth Parliament will do the same for many others like me in the future.
UK Youth Parliament shows how diverse our nation is and how driven young people are to inspire and instigate change, no matter what barriers they must overcome. To any young people reading this, I want you to know that YOU can make a change. In the words of Dr Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better”.
I will end with a final message from Jess Leigh: “The UK Youth Parliament is more than just a political organisation, it is a support network, a voice and a hope for the future.” I think she has perfectly captured the essence of the UK Youth Parliament, and I hope that many of you would be inclined to agree.