Think young people don’t care about politics? On the eve of the leaders debates, youth-led development agency, Restless Development, hosted a debate on the ‘youth vote’ - ‘Reframing the Vote’.
Our young volunteers, some of whom attended the Reframing the Vote event, have issued an open letter to all British Parliamentarians which can be read below. If you'd like add your signature to the letter, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to pass it on to your Prospective parliamentary candidates!:
To all British Parliamentarians,
You’ve probably heard that 56% of 18-24 year-olds didn’t vote in the last election, and that current estimates suggest less than half of us will show up at the ballot box in May. You might think there’s no point in listening to the views of young people or campaigning to win our support.
But if you do, you’d be wrong.
We’re writing to remind you that young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow, we’re the leaders of today. We are committed to change, progress and social justice in the UK and around the world.
We’re part of a globalised generation that is deeply committed to global justice; many of us have volunteered overseas and continue to campaign on issues of equality and rights here in the UK. We have a powerful global outlook; we’re more supportive of the money spent on international aid than other age group and are more likely to prioritise issues of climate change and hunger. If our voice goes unheard in this election, these fundamental global issues are at risk of being neglected.
It’s not that we’re apathetic, many of us are just disillusioned with our current political process here in the UK. We’re disengaged by a system we see as stacked against us, one which marginalises and hinders young people in the UK. We’re talking education, jobs and housing. We’re used to broken promises, empty rhetoric and an electoral system which forces us to vote based on tactics and constituency borders rather than who we believe genuinely represents us. We look at Parliament and see an overwhelming majority of white, male MPs with an average age of 50; we don’t see ourselves and we don’t see our beliefs.
But it doesn't have to be this way. You must capture our energy and commitment to achieving change in the world by pulling us in to the political process. We want politics in the UK to be more engaging, welcoming and accessible to young people. Greater awareness and knowledge needs to begin in school at an earlier age. Political institutions also need to widen their reach; promoting their work and becoming transparent so that all members of society can access this information.
Through our actions on social justice and global issues we are demonstrating our right to be at the heart of the political process time and time again. We are a powerful group who can’t continue to be ignored.
Ben Leatham, 20
Dane Hiscocks, 21
Elen Meggy, 25
Evie Muir, 21
Gemma Munday, 23
Jack McQuibban, 22
Ladan Takow, 23
Laura Harrisson, 22
Martin Barker, 25
Oliver Barkwith, 23
Usaama Kaweesa, 24
Restless Development volunteers
The signatories are all volunteers who have returned from three month ICS placements with youth-led charity Restless Development, working on projects to that strengthen civic participation among young people, livelihoods and employment opportunities, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.