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Learn from the young people shaping our political future…
This month, three of the UK’s (scrap that, the world’s) most trailblazing youth activists are taking a stand on our front cover.
Daze Aghaji, Ellen Jones and Scarlett Westbrook are a trio from The Body Shop’s global network of activists who are leading the way when it comes to raising youth voices. They join Maria Thattil, Deja Foxx and Gina Martin in the fight for greater youth inclusion in politics.
And for good reason, although 50% of the world’s population is thought to be under 30, just 2.6% of global parliamentarians are of the same age.
By teaming up with The Body Shop on its ongoing ‘Be Seen. Be Heard’, the activists are passionate about having their voices heard in the halls of power. Specialising in climate change policy, diversity and representation and safeguarding future generations Daze, Ellen and Scarlett are facing today’s political problems head on.
They (and we) know the best way to do this is by lowering the voting suffrage to 16-years-old across the UK. Together with the British Youth Council, The Body Shop’s campaigners want to level the playing field when it comes to the youth vote.
Currently, Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney of the Channel Islands have extended the voting age to 16. In Scotland and Wales, 16- and 17-year-olds can vote in local and devolved elections, but not in Westminster elections, while in England and Northern Ireland, this age group can’t vote at all.
The Body Shop’s network of youth activists (and their work) doesn’t stop in the UK, in fact youth ambassadors are taking the globe by storm.
Here are 6 important lessons from The Body Shop’s global youth activists
1. Use the internet for good
Daze Aghaji, the climate-justice trailblazer uses her social platforms for collective power. She says, ‘The internet is also an amazing space for organising and coming together. When I first helped found Extinction Rebellion Youth, we asked ourselves, “how do we create spaces for ourselves and reclaim the cultural identity of being young?”’
2. Give young people the tools they need
Ellen Jones, a LGBTQI+ and disability advocate who is also an award winning consultant and strategist is pushing for youth activists to be taken seriously. ‘The fetishisation of youth activists only works if they are also empowered to drive change. You can’t elevate young people on the one hand, claiming that they are going to “save the world”, and then not give them the tools to do that. That’s a contradiction for me – it’s all for show.’
3. Remember, age doesn’t equal experience
The climate-education champion, Scarlett Westbrook, who is the world’s youngest policy writer wants everyone to realise young peoples’ power. She says: ‘At 13, I helped to organise school strikes in the UK and started writing for The Independent as a political commentator.’
‘I’ve probably met about 200 MPs in the past three years and I’ve contributed to seven party manifestos; I’ve also written a climate education bill. Age doesn’t equal experience – I think I’ve shown that.’
4. Hold world leaders accountable
Maria Thattil is a champion of critical social justice issues and serves as a member of the United Nations Association of Australia. Working with The Body Shop and Raise Our Voice Australia, she is running a pre-election campaign to champion diverse young female and non-binary voices to actively lead conversations in politics, domestic policy and foreign policy.
‘We are counting down to an election critical to our future. Despite the digital revolution, accessing positions of formal authority and leadership is still a challenge for underrepresented groups,’ she says, continuing: ‘Beyond just being heard, it’s time for diverse voices to yield power in holding leaders accountable on their election policies.’
5. Allow young people to make decisions that shape the future
Deja Foxx is shouting about youth activism across the pond. Championing youth reproductive justice and safety, Deja is one of the youngest presidential campaign staffers in modern history. She is working with The Body Shop in the US and Canada to address the lack of youth representation in public life by encouraging young people to vote.
On her activism, she says: ‘I didn’t choose politics, politics chose me. I grew up in section 8 housing on food stamps and I always knew what it felt like to have decisions about the resources I needed to survive and thrive being made by elected officials often outside of my reach.’
6. Trust the imagination and fearlessness of the youth
You probably know author, policy maker and campaigner Gina Martin for spearheading the upskirting campaign that resulted in the Voyeurism Act 2019. On top of her work in this area, she is dedicated to raising youth voices via The Body Shops ‘Be Seen. Be Heard.’ campaign.
“In my work as a gender equality campaigner and writer I get to work with young people who bring the moral clarity, imagination and fearlessness that we so desperately need to change things for the better. The Body Shop campaign is so representative of what young people actually feel and are capable of, and I’m so excited to be part of it.”
Want to learn more about The Body Shop’s campaign?
You can find out more about these issues on The Body Shop’s website and in stores, or follow @TheBodyShopUK across Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. Join the conversation by using the hashtags #VotesAt16 and #BeSeenBeHeard.