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I'll Vote for the First Time in 2020 - This Is What I Want for Women

06/02/2015 16:42 GMT | Updated 08/04/2015 10:59 BST

Where do you want to be in five years' time? It's a question young people are often asked by teachers as they plan their futures. As a young woman, I think the answer to this question is extremely significant.

We live in a society in which women are treated as second class citizens. They battle against sexism and harassment and are woefully underrepresented in positions of power - from the boardroom to government.

So in five years' time I want a future in which gender inequality is stamped out - starting with politics.

By 2020 I will have turned 21. In the next five years I will go from being a teenager to being an adult - in the eyes of politics. I will also be a first time voter in the 2020 General Election and as I step into the polling booth for the first time I sincerely want to see more female candidates on my ballot paper than ever before. Women are currently underrepresented in the world of politics. There are currently only 148 female MPs, as opposed to the 502 male MPs. As last year's Girls' Attitude Survey found, 67% of young women feel that there are not enough female Members of Parliament in the UK. A further 63% think that girls' voices and opinions would be respected more if there were more women in parliament.

So why is it that only 22% of MPs are female? It occurs to me that it could be an issue of women being discouraged from pursuing political ambitions or that women are not being selected as parliamentary candidates. Whether it is one of these reasons or a combination of these factors, this needs to be addressed. The lack of female MPs creates a vicious circle. It leads to girls and young women being deterred from careers in politics. Young women are currently growing up in a system that appears to be stacked against them. Women's rights cannot advance if women do not feel that their voices are being listened to.

If we do not address this then we risk losing future generations of female leaders, politicians and policy makers. Why on earth would any young woman aspire to be a politician when they see female MPs being shouted down by male MPs in parliamentary debates? Or female cabinet ministers' outfits being criticised as they walked down the "Downing Street Catwalk"? It seems absolutely laughable that over three decades after the UK elected its first (and only, incidentally) female Prime Minister, female MPs are getting more media attention for their hair and shoes than for their policies and political performance.

We can break this vicious circle by encouraging girls and young women to engage with politics. This is precisely why Girlguiding's Girls Matter campaign fills me with optimism. The campaign hopes to achieve the equal representation of women in parliament by 2020, as well as ensuring that girls and young women have their voices heard by politicians.

In five years' time a new generation of first time voters (including myself) will be taking to the polling booths. Let's do all we can to make sure that are encouraged to engage in politics and to speak out, regardless of their gender.