Youth engagement continues to be near the bottom of many politicians' agendas. An absence of political education in schools conditions young people to feel that they lack the necessary knowledge to vote, whilst others feel that their individual vote will not make a difference to the outcome.
These misconceptions must be addressed. Brexit brought about more political engagement amongst young people than ever before; daily classroom debates, online forums and general conversation surrounding the EU referendum exemplified young people's interest in politics. So why is it that only 36% of people aged 18-24 turned up to vote on the 23rd June last year?
As a young woman with a keen interest in politics, I have noticed the frustration that many young people feel about the two party political system which is perpetuated by our First Past the Post system, meaning their desire for anything other than the two party monopoly is more difficult to obtain. Obtainable nonetheless.
It would be unfair to say that young people are disenfranchised from politics, yet perhaps more accurate to say they feel misheard and underrepresented. With 70% of MPs in Parliament being male, and 52% being above the age of 50, Members of Parliament can often seem distant, unapproachable and unreliable. Whilst university fees continue to increase and youth service funding is ever decreasing, it poses the question, do politicians really understand what it is like to be a young person in today's society?
8th June 2017 will be a prime opportunity for young people to send out a clear message. Each and every vote in the upcoming General Election counts. It is time for young people to take hold of their own future and vote, showing that we want to be taken seriously within the political system. It is clear from the statistics following the EU referendum that our influence is powerful.
The margin between remain and leave was a mere 3.8%, which is the equivalent to 1,269,501 votes. The population of 20-24 year olds in the UK in 2015 was 3,806,471, of which only 492,306 registered to vote. Imagine if all 18-24 year olds turned out to vote. Would 'Brexit' be happening today?
We can learn from the past and use it to further the progression of youth engagement in the future, ensuring that instead of using empty words to criticise the work of politicians, we put pen to the ballot paper, transforming empty words into effective actions. Whilst it may seem simple to put a cross next to your desired choice, deciding which party to vote for can be complex and daunting. Currently, it takes initiative amongst young people to read each manifesto and make an informed decision. However, I believe that in order to make voting accessible for everyone, both now and in generations to come, political education must be taught on the PSHE curriculum.
The women I had the pleasure of meeting at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in April broadened my perspective on the importance of voting. In some of the least developed Sub-Saharan African countries, female voting is still culturally hard to swallow. In Saudi Arabia, women are denied the vote altogether, and in many countries across the globe, voting is restricted to the age of 21 and above.
As a young, female first time voter, I regard voting as one of the privileges of a democratic society, and a way to honour the sacrifices of the suffragette movement in 1903. Despite the whirlwind of A level exams in the midst of the General Election, I am excited for the opportunity to express my own views in hope that it leads to a better future.
Our futures lie in the promises of politicians. Whether you can't bear Jeremy Corbyn's dress sense, you dislike Theresa May's personality or you think that Tim Farron is arrogant, it is paramount that votes are cast based upon the manifesto pledges rather than the party leader. These manifestos can easily be found on each party website and would help young people to feel more informed and able to make the best decision for them.
Elections do not happen often - so get involved. The younger you are, the longer you will have to deal with the consequences of this election, so make sure you grab the chance to express your views. For those feeling disenfranchised from our government, not voting is NOT a rebellion. Our establishment doesn't seem to like change, yet young people have the power to shake up the world of politics. By not voting, we are simply facilitating the process of politicians ignoring our youth, giving the impression of a generation driven by political apathy. It is our duty to change this, to take action to ensure that politicians truly listen to the voices of young people.
It is free, quick, and beneficial to all. Only when we all vote will young people be truly represented in our democracy. So, what political future would you like to see?