This year I will be a first time voter, and, in all honesty, I don't feel remotely qualified. Politics is a lot of work to keep up with when you're also trying to pass your A-levels, and the lack of political education at school certainly hasn't helped. I have a basic idea of what each party stands for but it's easy to get lost in the media hype and political point scoring that seem to dominate election coverage. Despite this it's also incredibly exciting to have the chance to influence the direction which our country will be taking over the next four years, and I'm determined to make my vote count.
As young women it is especially important that we use our votes to get our voices heard. Female voter turnout has declined in the last 20 years and in the 2010 General Election over nine million women didn't vote. This May we need to reverse this - because we need women's voices heard at the highest level.
Women remain poorly represented in Parliament and within politics as a whole, making it essential to push for a Government that values gender equality and will commit to improving the lives of women. Picking who gets to run our country is arguably one of the most important decisions we can make -it's not enough to let other people make this decision for us! If you want to see change then you have to vote. You have to vote with the hope of getting closer to that society that you want to see. Some defeatists say that we can't make a difference. But if all young women used their votes the UK could become an entirely different place.
I would like to see the next government make gender equality a priority both at home and worldwide. Girlguiding's Girls Matter campaign is asking the government to commit to eight policy asks that will help achieve this, and I'd especially like to see them follow through on our request that men and women be equally represented in parliament. It seems absurd to me that our government is not representative of the demographic that it serves and I strongly believe that the UK should be leading by example in ensuring that women's voices are heard. Politics should be accessible for everyone, something which is sadly not currently true, and only when parliament represents the people will more of us be able to fully engage in the debate.
So this election day I will be using my vote to make a difference, however small. Don't leave your future to chance and don't ever feel that you are insignificant: democracy relies on collective discussion, so let's talk and debate and be the change that we want to see.