I am Abda Kazemi and I am currently the Member of Youth Parliament for the London Borough of Redbridge. I am 16 years old, in full time education and am working closely with my Youth Council to make a difference in my local community. It’s a real honour for me to have been chosen by my peers to represent them. Young people today often struggle for their voices to be heard, and being a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) gives me a platform to raise the issues that are important to people my age.
As well as helping locally, I’ve been given the opportunity to help young people on a national scale as well. The MYPs are going to takeover the House of Commons on Friday 23rd November to debate issues that we feel are important. The debate topics were chosen by young people – not adults telling us what we should be talking about.
After many meetings, local campaigns and the Annual Sitting of MYPs, I can’t wait to get to Westminster! I think being able to go to the House of Commons to hold a debate is certainly one of the most exciting things I’ll get to do as a Member of Youth Parliament.
It feels surreal that myself and the rest of the hardworking MYPs from across the country will have the opportunity to debate the topics that young people feel the most passionate about in the House of Commons. The topics we are going to debate were chosen by vote. A staggering 250,000 young people voted in the ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign to choose the issues that they felt were really important. These include: making public transport cheaper, better and accessible for all; getting ready for work; marriage for all; an equal National Minimum Wage for all and a curriculum to prepare us for life.
Debates like this help us to publicise issues that affect young people. Even though the House of Commons debate is for MYPs, other young people can also get involved and discuss the issues we’ll be talking about. The ‘Create the Debate’ initiative will be running in the lead up to our trip to the House of Commons. 27,000 schools across the country have been given the opportunity to host debates in their classrooms about the same five key issues we’ll be debating.
Last year, the issue of transport was looked at in detail. In London, there is a lot of transport provision for most people. However, other members from different parts of the country have very different experiences. Some young people struggle in rural areas because busses only come along a few times an hour. If they need to get to school or college, it can sometimes be a long and difficult journey. Also, not all young people get free travel on busses. The other key issue for young people was the loss of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Young people from poorer backgrounds use the EMA to help pay for transport costs and without it, getting to and from school or college becomes difficult. After voting to action the transport issue last year, we set up a Youth Select Committee. It was created so that young people had the opportunity to talk to the bosses of big transport companies like TFL about their travel provision for young people. It was an interesting experience and meant that we got hear directly from the companies what they were doing to ensure young people had reasonable access to public transport.
UK Youth Parliament has not only given me a voice to put my views across, but has allowed the young people in my borough to have some form of representation. It is crucial for young people to become more politically engaged as the decisions made by adults affect their everyday lives. Young people have their own views and opinions, and they want to be able to express them. Sometimes I think that young people are patronised by adults and not taken seriously. Being an MYP allows me to speak to adults as an equal. So, even without the vote in national elections right now, we can still influence decision makers in changing things that affect us!
We are the leaders of tomorrow, so if we ‘Make our Mark’ now then that will be one less problem in the future. Let the House of Commons debate begin!
307 Members of the UK Youth Parliament aged 11-18 will take part in a debate in the House of Commons chamber on Friday 23 November 2012, chaired by The Speaker Rt Hon John Bercow MP. They will debate five issues chosen by a ballot of 250,000 young people, and then vote to decide which should become the UKYP’s priority campaign for 2013. The debate will be recorded in Hansard and broadcast live on BBC Parliament. For more information about the UK Youth Parliament visit: www.ukyp.org.uk