The British Youth Council is renewing its efforts to lobby politicians for a lower voting age of 16 as part of a 3-year partnership with The Body Shop. Together, they will develop a Votes at 16 manifesto, calling for all political parties to incorporate full voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in all national elections and referenda. The long-standing issue will form part of The Body Shop’s new campaign to give young people a say on who runs the country and makes decisions about their future.
The campaign, #BeSeenBeHeard encourages young people to speak out about issues they care about and to pushes political parties to back votes for 16- and 17-year-olds across the UK. It comes ahead of local elections across the UK, due to take place on May 5th in which 16- and 17-year-olds in Scotland and Wales will be allowed to vote whilst their counterparts in England and Northern Ireland are refused the right to be seen and heard.
Young people have never been more active in civic society: research suggests there could be as many as 800,000 young carers in the UK; 30% of new enlisters in the armed forces are 16- or 17- year-olds, and many are leading campaigns on issues such as climate change and social justice. Research consistently shows that young people are asking to Be Seen and Be Heard through full voting rights, with Votes at 16 being the top recurring issue in The British Youth Council’s annual Make Your Mark survey.
Yet young people are silenced when it comes to who makes decisions about their futures and remain under-represented in politics: just 3.2% of UK MPs are aged 30 or less compared to 36% of the UK population. Currently in Wales and Scotland young people aged 16 and over can vote in next week’s local elections only, but in England and Northern Ireland, they cannot vote at all.
Maddie Smith, Managing Director of The Body Shop UK says, “At The Body Shop, we have always fought for a fairer more beautiful world for future generations; the people who will inherit it. We recognise the many issues facing young people – and the planet – today and believe there is one simple step we can take to create real change: empower young people to have a voice in public affairs.
“We’re thrilled to be working with experts at British Youth Council to extend voting rights to all 16-and 17-year-olds in the UK.”
From today, The Body Shop will be raising youth voices, and driving awareness and conversation across its brand platforms including 239 retail stores, 30,000 The Body Shop At Home consultants, website, and social media channels. The Body Shop and British Youth Council partnership will see the development of a Votes at 16 manifesto, calling for all political parties to incorporate three key measures into their own commitments:
- Extend full voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in all national elections and referenda
- Extend local election voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland
- Introduce supportive & educational measures to break down the barriers to political engagement and voter registration
The British Youth Council are a leading member of the Votes at 16 Coalition, who have been campaigning on the youth vote for over 20 years.
Jo Hobbs, Chief Executive of the British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council are delighted to be working with The Body Shop to reignite the campaign for a lower voting age of 16 and to support even more young people to Be Seen and Be Heard.
“It cannot be right that we have a postcode lottery when it comes to participating in such an important democratic right. This is our opportunity to remind decision makers that young people have been calling for voting parity for both local and general elections across the UK for 20 years.
“Politicians must give a new generation of change makers the opportunities to participate so they can play an active role in resolving some of the biggest societal challenges we face.”
Part of the campaign involves working with young people who have achieved or are working towards positive social and environmental impact. They will encourage other young people to share issues they are concerned about to show politicians how engaged the new generation is with social and environmental issues that will define their future.
Climate justice activist Daze Aghaji said: “It’s so important to involve young people in politics – not through separate ‘youth’ arms, but at the centre of decision-making. I want to see young people as MPs, as people fighting for their communities, and as people who are represented in the Houses of Parliament.
“There are so many possibilities for businesses to play a huge role in this journey, especially ones like The Body Shop who have a long history of activism. Once young people find their voice, we will be able to harness their vision and passion, and that is something that will change the world.”
The public are invited to participate by joining the conversation and becoming more informed on the Votes at 16 movement. You can join the conversation by following #VotesAt16 and #BeSeenBeHeard.