Introduction to the Universal Peace Federation
Youth Engagement in Politics
Written by Lauren Turner and Margaret Ali
Friday, October 17, 2014
|Matteo Bergamini of Shout Out UK|
“Up until when I turned 18 a few months ago, I was never interested in politics. Suddenly, I thought now that I can vote whom do I vote for? I must be informed. This type of event will help us (young people) to be informed and hopefully, more involved too”
On the 14th of October 2014, around 100 young people and political figures gathered in the House of Commons to discuss youth engagement in politics. Speakers included; Matteo Bergamini of Shout Out UK, Gisela Stuart MP, Rt Hon. Tom Brake, Naiha Masih, John Loughton of Dare 2 Lead, and Amira El-Houderi of Young Leaders and Youth UPF. However, due to the fantastic quality of the speakers and the points that they raised, much of the event was transformed into a discussion and exchange of ideas across the room.
|Niaha Masih a young activist from Oxford|
One of the first points that gained a lot of traction was the lack of political education in schools. Matteo pointed out that when a young person is introduced to politics, it is a concept very disassociated from the every day, focusing on political history rather than engaging the individual’s interest in education or gender inequality etc. By not engaging with young people via education, when it get’s to the time to vote, many feel uninspired to vote, particularly if their idea of politics is an intangible social structure where politicians don’t listen. Naiha picked up this point very eloquently; using the tuition fee’s as an example. For many young people in the room, this was their first contact with the political system and many felt disillusioned by it. However, John also raised a strong point. To be taken seriously, young people need to stand up and be counted, be involved with politics and prove the media wrong with regards to their opinions on young people.
“It’s time to be spoken to and to speak, listen, and be listened to.” - John Loughton
It's important to remember that not all young people are disengaged, and just because they aren’t voting doesn’t mean that they aren’t politically active, many taking to social media. Amira spoke from her heart as she remembered Tawfik Bensaud, who although very young, consistently spoke out for the Libyan peace movement. She told of how he as a young person inspired her with his energy and peaceful leadership style. He consistently rejected violence, persuading people to choose peace, he always turned his core beliefs into actions, and stood up for those who needed help, and he was not supressed by fear. Tawfik will always be remembered for his dedication to peace and hope for the future.
|John Laughton of Dare 2 Lead||Amira El-Houderi speaking about Tawfik|
Alongside these young people, politicians were also given the opportunity to speak about their decisions and how they got involved in politics. Gisela Stuart remained firm that having a ‘proper’ job before becoming a politician is imperative as life experience is what breaks the disconnect between politicians and the general public. Getting involved in politics because of gender issues, a topic that she was incredibly passionate about, she has recently noticed that young people are imperative as they stop her from getting complacent. Tom Brake reinforced that you have to have passion if you want to become a politician. You have to care deeply about the needs for the people that you represent and conduct yourself with integrity.
|Rt Hon.Tom Brake sharing his experiences||Gisela Stuart MP sharing her experiences|
The evening concluded with some final words from Rt Hon. Baroness Verma who spoke very passionately about the need for young people to be more involved in politics. It was a resounding feeling that she really listened to the questions posed to her and the room, and for everyone in the room it seemed like the perception that politicians just don’t care was quashed, at least for that evening.
|Rt Hon. Baroness Verma speaking with young people||Ollie Davis director of YouthUPF|
Attendees afterwards said the following:
“I really am not well informed about politics, however, I definitely do feel a little more inspired to vote after the event, I never really considered the effects of having less young people voting on the way that politicians view youth or are willing to make changes especially for the benefit of young people.”
One politician commented “ it was a very healthy discussion, well done for filling the room with mostly young people …discussing engaging and questioning …more of this is needed”
“The event was inspiring, exciting because of young people discussing and interesting as it covered a variety of issues”
“As always Youth UPF ran another important event- I thought the talks were interesting and the whole atmosphere charged and vibrant- it goes to show why we need more Youth engagement in politics.”
Thanks to all of the YouthUPF Team, especially to Asuka Ohagi Östberg and Danielle Duhur for the minutes and to Julien Bernaud and Lauren Turner for the photographs.