As part of our Made By Girls issue, 15-year-old columnist Alana challenges our current political system.
In a time of smartphones and instant access to the world around us, you’d think that increasing numbers of young people would be craving knowledge about current political affairs, wouldn’t you? That is unfortunately not the case, though. The young people of today have almost removed themselves from wanting to get involved in politics.
So, the question arises, why are young people becoming more disconnected? For a lot of people my age, the first thing we think about when people mention politics is posh men in suits using convoluted language not well understood to our generation. Some don’t want to learn about it because it’s perceived as disengaging, boring.
Young people don’t understand the language being used or how Parliament comes to a decision, affecting so many of us, without our say. Things would be so different if we were taught how to navigate our political systems; teaching us about how they are created and why they are important. Not just being shown a news feed of confusing jargon, targeted at middle-aged people and then expected to understand it.
Has politics ever been a popular topic? Will it ever be? It’s all about conflict and power, something most will choose to avoid. Is it possible to change these factors to make a more people-friendly government?
I believe it’s our duty to inspire the political system into changing how it treats people, letting it evolve into something that hopefully every person will be able to comprehend. We need role models, inspirational figures, equality! If all that young people are seeing is an overwhelming amount of middle-aged white males representing every single person in the UK, then what do we have to look up to? We see the same faces in the same places, it’s time to redesign how we see our country.
This is driving us to bring about change, to be the generation to reestablish the power that women had 100 years ago when they were fighting for the vote. Political parties need to do more to put forward female, religious and cultural minorities and disabled candidates, so that the public, especially younger generations, can have more inspirational figures to look up to. We also need to do more to encourage young women and men to take action and become the change that we need to see.
Last March I was elected by young people to become one of two Members of the Youth Parliament for Plymouth. Youth Parliament provides opportunities for 11- to 18-year-olds to use their voice to bring about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning. It’s a fantastic way for people like me to talk and campaign on what we feel is relevant and needs to be spoken about.
This year, one of the national campaigns that we’ve all been working on is Votes At 16, and – though not successful quite yet – we’re nearly there! Being able to vote at 16 would increase young people’s knowledge of politics and get them involved in making educated decisions; it would socialise young people into voting while they were mostly still in formal education.
If the next generation grows up seeing a variety of religions, genders, sexualities and disabilities representing them, then perhaps they can be the generation to change the world. They would have grown up with the concept and desire for equality.
An equal distribution of people from various backgrounds in politics is evidence of a society’s acceptance and growth. It promotes not conforming to society’s regulations and defaults, helping make every person comfortable with who they are, knowing their voices will be represented. The world is changing, evolving into a place of growing equality, but the same needs to happen with how our government is run.
Words by Alana, 15. Alana, who lives in Plymouth, is a massive music fan. She mostly listens to indie, but she’s open to all sounds. She joined the UK Youth Parliament in February 2018 and she has campaigned to raise awareness of hidden disorders, fuelled by her own experience of autism.