Our voices matter

Following the recent general election and the rise in female MPs, Orla, 16, tells us why it’s more important than ever that young women get involved in politics, and how Action for Change is helping her to tackle inequality

Orla Garner
04 July 2017

When I first turned up to the Action for Change weekend, I knew that I wanted to do whatever I could to fight discrimination.

I was struck by the empowering feeling of being in a room full of other young women who all wanted to make a difference to society. I was suddenly brought back down to earth when a presentation about the role of MPs highlighted the disparity between numbers of men and women in parliament. I was angry about how unfair this seemed. I want to change this because representation is important, especially when it comes to influencing the key decisions made in the country.

Equal and empowered

As half of the population, women deserve to have an equal voice in running the country. That’s why through Action for Change, I’ve been trying to encourage more girls and women to take part in politics.

After the recent general election, the immediate political future of the country may seem a little uncertain, with no clear majority in parliament and Brexit negotiations beginning. Despite this, the future is looking bright for representation and diversity in parliament, with more women elected than ever before, as well as more black and ethnic minority and openly-LGBT MPs.

It feels like politics is moving away from old-fashioned ideals, and as a young woman, this makes me feel more enthusiastic and engaged.

Election dissection

Now, there are 208 female MPs in parliament, which is higher than the 191 who were elected in 2015, and higher than any election before. This is a small victory worth celebrating and shows that women are getting their voices heard. This increase shows me that people do care about what women have to say and contribute; it encourages me to feel like my opinion matters and equality will increase in the future.

Despite this, more still needs to be done as still only 32% of MPs are women, meaning that an entire half of the population is represented by less than a third of the most important decision makers.

Why your voice is important

All women were first allowed to vote in 1928 and to stand for election in 1918, and the proportion who have been elected each year has slowly grown due to changing attitudes towards women and more women putting themselves forward. However, almost 100 years on, there were still 104 constituencies with all male candidates, meaning that (according to the BBC) 7.5 million people could not vote for a woman to be their local MP, compared with only one seat (Glasgow Central) where all of the candidates were female. What message does this send to girls and women who want their voice heard?

The 2010 Equality Act banned discrimination on the basis of gender in the UK, but men are still 68% of MPs – this is not fair.

Young women are just as much a part of the future as everyone else, and we have just as much of a right to be in control of our lives. Our voices matter, but our parliament at the moment does not reflect this as much as it should.

Looking forward

In the future, I want to see a parliament that represents the true spread of diversity across the country and is no longer dominated by men. Young women are key to this because we come from a generation where I think we do see ourselves as equal.

Action for Change has given me all of the help I need with my project, including mentoring and resources on everything from writing blog posts like this to self-care, as well as workshops on campaigning and how to get your voice heard. I’ve met lots of inspiring activists, and seen how they’ve made change with their campaigns.

I have so many different tools and guides at my disposal, it’s just up to me to make the most of them to make the change that I want to see in society.

The plan for my project is to create a badge demonstrating to girls how they can use their voice and be involved in politics.

Hopefully, this will encourage girls to be engaged in politics and voice their opinions about the world around them. If you want to get involved, go for it! Everyone’s voice is important, it’s knowing how to use it that counts.

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