National Voter Registration Drive (NVRD) is an annual campaign, working together with thousands of people around the UK coordinating local activities through which to engage, inform and inspire their communities to register to vote.
Members from UK Youth Voice talk about the importance of politics, voting and why young people should engage in democracy:
Mev Ahmad – UK Youth Voice Facilitator
From a trainer perspective it’s not easy raising the politics question with young people. In fact I was booed by around 30 young people after I said I was going to talk to them about Politics. However when we got onto the subject of voting and democracy, the response was overwhelming and this led to a heated debate about the merits of each party. So stick with it… as when you finally get down to the nitty gritty and really get talking to young people about Politics, voting and how politics relates to the issues that matter to them, ears prick up and informed debates begin to take place.
Often young people are classed as knowing little about politics, and maybe that can often be the case, but I’ve found that young people are far more informed than they are given credit for. Once you start making politics real and can demonstrate how it affects them, some amazing ideas and thoughts come forward. From a group of 30 young people booing me and with only one of them registered to vote; after a good discussion, making it real and showing that Westminster decisions can actually affect people (apprenticeships, benefits etc…), I’d managed to get at least 10 of them to register to vote. This was so thrilling!
For me his was an incredibly rewarding experience – seeing young people become animated, engaged and, dare I say it, enthusiastic, brought about through knowledge, understanding and peer group discussion is pretty cool. I left the group with the youth leaders engaged in some in-depth debates amongst themselves and the rest of the young people in the session.
It’s not an easy start but it’s important and worth a try and having a hook like voter registration week is brilliant to raise the topic. So go on, why not raise “the politics question” and see what happens? Remember it only takes 5 minutes to register and not only does it mean that young people have a say in their future but there are some pretty great benefits too like raising your credit rating being a good citizen.
Tamanna Miah – UK Youth Voice South East Rep
It’s important for BME to register to vote for a number of reasons. Young people from the BME group is one of the most underrepresented groups in society in all areas of life, be it education, employment, voting, politics and more. BME young people are less likely to be engaged and less likely to appear at the ballot box to vote. BME young people are more likely to be unaware of the political process. It’s important that we include all young people regardless of race, religion and background to be involved in the political process and have the opportunity to be able to vote and exercise their democratic right as UK citizens. By registering it will allow them to be able to voice their views and opinions to an audience that they wouldn’t necessarily engage in. Those from a BME background also face issues that everyday young people face too. For example some universities such as Oxford have less than 42 black students enrolled in them, therefore being a cause for concern as to whether universities are accessible for the vulnerable and for BME communities. We need more BME to come together as a collective to vote and make a stand in order to make a difference to society. It’s important for them to be more involved in society’s politics and be able to raise the matters that concern them such as Racism, discrimination, islamophobia, mental health, bullying, domestic violence, arranged marriages, FGM and much more.
Shayne Tshabalala – UK Youth Voice Yorkshire and Humber Rep
We live in a society governed by a wonderful thing called democracy, originating from the Greek words Demo-kratia to mean people power. From the offset this suggests that we the people have the power to influence and improve our own way of life through voicing our opinions at the voting polls. Lets not forget that it was not so long ago that working class people did not have the vote, that women did not have the vote which makes it imperative that we all take every advantage of this privilage in this new milenium. More than ever BME people are called upon to use thier voice but having been on the ground discussing this notion with voters there is a minor consesus that BME communities constitute a proportionally smaller part of the electorate.The good news is that the way population demographics work the rapid growth of BME communities means the numbers can only grow, the BME voice can only get louder and just the thought of that gets me excited about using my vote. Different sections of society have different issues affecting them thus more BME people need to realise that politics is not an age old institution set in stone, but rather that it is evolving and can and should be tailor made for each individual community. The reality is that today politics starts from the grass roots driven by a growing number of diverse individuals and bme communities can help nurture this diversity through voting for and electing leaders that best represent them. This brings to mind a conversation i had recently with friend of mine whom i told of my desire to be involved in politics, his reply was sceptical and in his opinion all politicians do is make terrible foreign policy descisions. I went on to explain to him how government is also about issues in society and service delivery as well as ensuring every citizen is heard.I hope he reads this article and realises that he has the power to shape the politics that he wants to see by simply stepping up to the ballot paper. This is a challenge to us all because like the old saying goes, you stand for something or fall for anything.
If you would like to find out more about the #NVRD campaign then visit the Bite the Ballot website.