Today, 15 September, is the International Day of Democracy and this year’s theme is “Strengthening Voices for Democracy”.
It aims to encourage more people to get involved in democracy – whether locally or nationally – to make their opinions heard.
Ensuring that our democracy reflects the diversity of views and opinions of the people it represents is essential to the health and vibrancy of our democratic system – everyone should have the opportunity to make their voices heard. The more voices and ideas that contribute to democracy – whether in elections, Parliament, local government or anywhere else – the better, and more legitimate, our collective decisions will be.
However, diversity doesn’t only make democracy fairer and more legitimate, it can also help to make better decisions. Every voice is a new perspective on a problem, bringing different insights, ideas and possible solutions. If only a few people are engaged in the discussion we are missing out on a wealth of information that could help decision makers find better answers to problems.
This great idea, that diversity strengthens democracy, is one of the key themes of this year’s Parliament Week, which focuses on Women in Democracy. As well as celebrating the contribution that women have made to democracy in the UK, it will also explore how women’s voices can be better heard at all levels of democratic life. Although women make up half the UK population, this not reflected in the number of women elected to Parliament or the number of women in other senior roles elsewhere in public and private life. As the Clerk of the House of Commons I’m aware that there is more that can be done to encourage greater diversity amongst the staff of the House of Commons and this is something I’ve been working to improve as the House’s Diversity Champion.
This year’s Parliament Week programme will feature exhibitions and events across the UK about those women who made a difference to our democracy in the past, as well as a series of debates and discussions about how women can take a greater part in our democracy. The programme is online, but the list of events is constantly growing so I would encourage you to check back regularly.
I do hope you will take the opportunity to get involved in Parliament Week and make your voice heard.