It is often argued that young people suffer from political apathy. I disagree. Youth activism through campaigning, the creation of social enterprises, and dialogue on social media platforms are evidence that young people are engaging with politics. This engagement does not, however, often translate into votes. A study carried out by The Telegraph in 2017 shows that young people are least likely to be registered to vote and cast votes. In the 2015 General Election only 43% of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote. This means that young people’s voices are not being heard, and this is a problem.
ParliaMentors is a UN award winning interfaith political leadership programme run by 3FF (Three Faiths Forum). I was placed in a team with four other students from my university from different faith and belief backgrounds. We were given a lot of training and skills to make a difference in our community. For us, it meant changing that perception of political apathy.
“I applied for ParliaMentors in the hope of developing and expanding my awareness of the local community. ParliaMentors training helped me formulate techniques to effectively communicate with the community, to build trust and strong relationships. It was this that proved very helpful when forging ties with the local school.”
To tackle this, the University of Birmingham ParliaMentors team wanted to raise political awareness and create a network of engaged young people. As a result, In2Politics was created. We at In2Politics are a group of Political Science, International Relations, History and Law students, from a diverse range of backgrounds and political persuasions. We’re united by a common desire to educate young people about social action, service, government and politics, through constructive dialogue and debate.
We believe that young people can be motivated by knowledge, understanding and aspiration to achieve – irrespective of background. Considering the lack of formal political education and subsequent disengagement of young people, it is our intention to empower and inspire diverse groups of students. We impart in them the knowledge that politics is an attainable platform through which they can enact positive change in society.
“It’s been very eye-opening – it’s made me more aware of different options and choices.” Lina Rauf, 17
In2Politics are working with 16 to 17-year-olds who received comprehensive training that increases their political knowledge, develops their communication skills, and encourages political engagement. In January, we invited Bite the Ballot to carry out a workshop which sought to break down the barriers keeping young people from participating in the decision-making process.
In March, we got our students onto the University of Birmingham campus where they were exposed to university life through a campus tour and taster lecture. This highlighted the opportunities that studying politics can bring.
Later that month, we took our students to Parliament. For many, this was their first time in the Palace of Westminster. We had a great day showing our students around Parliament, meeting MPs and attending an all-party parliamentary group hearing on youth views on Brexit.
Our evaluation highlighted the growth of participants throughout the programme. Many felt that the programme increased not only their political awareness but also exposed them to how they could engage with politics in the future. The programme also developed and enhanced skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership.
“It’s pretty insightful – I learnt a lot. It’s given me a lot more information about universities.” Gabriel Daka, 17
Our project was such a success that the University of Birmingham POLSIS department have adopted the programme and have been working with us to allow In2Politics to grow.
Thanks to the support of Jess Phillips MP, the Three Faiths Forum and University of Birmingham’s POLSIS department we have created a project exposing young people to the formal political arena.
If you’re an individual or organisation who shares this desire and wants to get involved, do get in touch!
— Thivya Jeyashanker, NHSF University of Birmingham
Third Year International Relations