Campaign aims to get more young women involved in politics - Megan Maclean

The Scottish Parliament elections are taking place on Thursday, May 6 giving all young women and girls over the age of 16 the opportunity to vote. For many young people it will be their first-time taking part in democracy.

Megan Maclean, Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out champion
Megan Maclean, Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out champion

Voting in elections is very important because it means everyone’s voice can be heard. Every vote counts in an election. But young people, particularly young women, are less likely to vote, meaning their opinions and views are not always represented. Girlguiding Scotland’s, Girls in Scotland 2020 report, found 62 per cent of girls and young women think there needs to be more opportunities for young people to get involved in politics. That’s why we’ve been encouraging Girlguiding Scotland members to use their vote on 6th May, but there is still more work to do. In the same study, 60 per cent of 11 to 21 year-old girls and young women believe more needs to be done to make politics equal for men and women. As a Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out champion, I’m passionate about making this change a reality.

To celebrate Vote 100 and the Year of Young People 2018 we launched a new campaign and interactive resource – Citizen Girl. This resource empowers girls to discover why their voice matters and how they can make change, learn about the political process, representation and equality with fun, hands-on challenges like building their own edible parliament, creating their own superheroes and holding their own Citizen Girl Summits. We encourage girls and young women to see themselves as leaders and empower them to take action on the issues that matter to them. It’s especially important for young women to use their vote so that they can have a say in the issues that impact their lives and futures. By casting a vote in an election, change can be made and an inclusive agenda can be reached.

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Voting for the first time in elections can seem very daunting but it’s also really empowering. It may seem hard to make an informed decision on a candidate or political party and many young people may also feel obligated to vote for who their parents, guardian or friends vote for. It’s also completely normal to not know who to vote for. Just because your friends and family know who they will vote it doesn’t mean you have to rush to pick a party to vote for or pick a party that is the ‘most popular’. We want all young people to know that their vote is their decision to make and it doesn’t need to be shared.

There are lots of ways young people can find out more information when thinking about who they want to represent them. Reading the manifestos of the different political parties, watching TV debates and flicking through the campaign leaflets that come through your door are all great ways to help get informed about the key issues a candidate stands for. Many political candidates also have an online presence so it’s a good idea to find them on social media and see how they present themselves. Not all political parties share the same views and beliefs, so it’s important to vote for a party that can help to create a better future for you and your community.

My message to young people this election? I feel so empowered being able to vote and being able to elect who I feel represents my values and beliefs. Voting means I have impact on decisions made in my local area and wider community hopefully creating change for the better. Voting isn’t about winners or losers - it’s about making sure everyone’s voice is heard and our Parliament reflects that as much as possible.

Megan Maclean, Girlguiding Scotland Speak Out champion

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