By Mashrufa Miah, Director of Outreach and Communications, My Life My Say
Apathetic. Lazy. Disengaged. These are the words commonly used to describe young people and their attitude to politics. But they’re far from reality.
In the run up to the general election in May, MyLifeMySay has been working on the #BeTheChange campaign through a series of question time events to engage young people in politics.
Launched at the Houses of Parliament in February 2015, the aim of the campaign is to empower young people by making sure they are at the heart of the debate. Engagement with young people is an ongoing and evolving process to help foster greater civic engagement.
By hosting a series of question time events with young people as panelists, this direct involvement gave them a forum to discuss issues they were most passionate about, whether that be crime, health or education. With an election result that defied the polls, we thought we would discuss the future of the UK in our final discussion panel. At King’s College London, we quizzed political commentators and politicians about what the election means for young people.
Young people are not naive. Taking a selfie does not suddenly make a politician immediately in-touch with the younger generation. More needs to be done to encourage young people into politics. They need to feel represented. They need to feel worthy of being listened to. And most importantly, they need to feel like their voice counts.
Various solutions to increasing youth engagement in politics were posed by panelists and the audience alike. These consisted of reducing the voting age to 16, introducing compulsory voting, making political education compulsory in secondary education or introducing online voting. Many people also posted videos on social media with the hashtag #IfIwerePMforaday as well as tweeting their opinions on issues they are most passionate about.
The #BeTheChange campaign has not ended after the elections. In the upcoming months we will be publishing a report aimed at the newly-elected government for their first 100 days of office. This report will be the result of collective contribution from young people.
These events just go to show that young people are not apathetic about politics. They are not lazy, and neither are they disengaged. They care about the issues that affect their lives. They are the future of Britain and the quicker we all acknowledge the importance of young people to the political process, the quicker our democracy will continue to thrive.
Let’s not stop this here. Let’s continue to challenge and influence the policymakers of this country. Let’s #BeTheChange.
MyLifeMySay (MLMS) is a not-for-profit independent organisation which aims to engage young people in politics. MLMS was founded in early 2013 by a group of diverse students who recognised the lack of political engagement amongst the youth. Its goal is to foster a commitment to the youth that will promote interpersonal skills, debating and analytical skills, public speaking, and general involvement in the issues that currently affect young people in today’s changing global climate.