We have fire within us to create change by Madeleine Grant, Loreto College Student

Everyone has a voice and to create change we have to share our voices, we have to get our voices heard, we have to be optimistic about change. The more young people are ignored the more we want to be heard, which is why when I was given the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons, I was honoured and privileged to attend.

In March 2022, I was elected by my peers to be a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) for my constituency, Bury, after plastering posters around schools and sharing photos and videos of why people should vote for me across my social media channels. Making my face inescapable seemed to be a successful strategy as I won by a record-breaking landslide victory, with a voting turn out of almost 47%.

This year’s House of Commons sitting, where MYPs met to discuss some of the most prevalent issues to young people, was held on Friday 4th November. It was organised by the British Youth Council and Parliament to engage people in politics and represent the voice of young people.

As I arrived that morning, entering the UK’s home of democracy, my surroundings triggered a momentary realisation, I would no longer be watching people sat on the green benches, I was one of them and people would be watching us on TV. The day started with coffee and pastries in Westminster Hall, before being ushered into the House of Commons and taking our seats before the morning session commenced.

Mr Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle led the morning session, with the first debate about discrimination and health, highlighting issues about our healthcare system, female genital mutilation, and the discrimination behind access to services and certain drug prescriptions. The day consisted of five different debates about discrimination and health, the climate crisis and health, education and health, the cost of living crisis and health and mental health, as well as speakers from overseas territories and current MPs: all split over a morning session and afternoon session.

After the first debate, it was the debate on climate crisis and health which I had prepared a speech for as I feel very passionate about resolving the climate crisis in a way which promotes equality and diversity.

After attending a lot of events about climate change like Salford University’s net zero conference and being part of my local strategic board, I decided to talk about how inequalities in modern day Britain impact how people feel the effects of climate change. As poverty and discrimination are the defining challenges of our era, if we don’t tackle this, we will fail to tackle the climate crisis in a sustainable way. As much as I had practiced this speech nothing could have prepared for the mix of nerves and excitement, something I call ‘nervouscitement’. However, I have always been told that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I was not going to let this defeat me. After successfully waving my notebook at Mr speaker and being chosen, I took a deep breath and when the words started flowing, my enthusiasm took control creating an experience I hope will become a lasting memory.

My speech touched on the inequalities that mean women are disproportionately affected by climate change, because although they are more involved in environmental initiatives they have less say in the decisions as only 38% of senior business positions are occupied by females. As well as this I spoke about how people in poverty will feel greater effects as they can’t afford to repair the damages caused by climate change and are now in a worse position because of the cost-of-living crisis, whilst the wealthy can afford insurance and are able to relocate when disaster strikes. These inequalities should be addressed, so a solution for climate change can be created for everyone not just the few.

Following my speech was a round of applause from my peers, which usually wouldn’t be allowed in the House of Commons but was an exception, as the British Youth Parliament wanted to create a supportive and encouraging environment for us all. When I took my seat, it was a real “pinch me” moment as my heart was still racing and I couldn’t quite believe what I had achieved. As the day went on people came up to me congratulating me, interested to hear more about different inequalities, which lead to some very intellectual conversations about the climate crisis and politics with MYPs from throughout the country. The following debates were very inspiring hearing viewpoints on education, mental health and the cost of living crisis and how young people need to be involved in the decisions which affect them.

To end the day, we voted in the voting lobbies for the British Youth Council’s next social action campaign/project for the following year. The cost of living crisis and health, won with a majority of votes. The priorities of the campaign are to minimise the effects of the cost-of-living crisis felt by young people and to ensure everyone has access to a daily warm nutritional meal. I am looking forward to working with the British Youth Parliament and Council during the winter months to ensure outcomes are met and represent young people.

Young people have fire within them to create change, as we see instability around us constantly, we use our voices to create the change we want to see. Which is why I believe as politics and democracy moves forward, young people although not able to vote, their opinions should always be heard and considered in the decision-making process. Everyone has a voice and young people are using theirs to create change.