When I was a young person I’m not even sure I knew what democracy meant…
My first insight into the world of politics was when I was at university. In my first year of a Drama and Education degree we studied a module on “Political drama”, which involved reading David Hare’s “An Absence of War”, and going to the theatre to watch “Maggie Thatcher the Musical”. I was never really into politics, having not received any education about it at school and never really understanding it. However, once you have seen a woman appear on stage in a giant handbag, it suddenly makes politics seem a bit more interesting.
My next brush with the world of democracy came when I took on some additional work as a part-time youth worker and I was put to work on the Gosport Youth Council project. I was supporting young people to have a positive impact in their community, and the group were there to represent the views of their peers in an apolitical environment and ultimately make change happen. The group amazed me; there was one young man in particular who was very open about being a Liberal Democrat, proudly showing me his membership card, and another young lady who was a proud Tory who used to help the local politicians deliver leaflets. The thing that was amazing was that they were all able to work together and understand what is best for the community, and get things done. One of the biggest successes of the Youth Council was to push the development of a skate park in Gosport, and also to run youth conferences for the local young people.
I worked with the Gosport Youth Council for 4 years, and during my time on the project it surprised me how determined some of the young people were. It was through this work that I decided to create the Hampshire Scout Youth Council for my role within scouting, and have worked to support young people in Hampshire Scouts to take part in democracy. One of the highlights of this piece of work was taking a minibus full of scouts to the Scouts Speak Up event at the Conservative Party Conference, where they were able to interact face to face with MP’s and have real conversations about what matters to young people.
The underpinning thing that I feel is really important is not to get young people necessarily assigned to a political party, but to support them to develop an interest in their community and help them start to recognise where they could change and improve their local areas for the better as well as know how to influence decision makers and ensure that their voice is heard as a citizen. I wish that when I was a young person, I had been able to access these opportunities and learn a little about political education, as it probably would not have come as such a massive shock when I saw a woman appear out of a handbag!
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