Mari Wyn Gooberman - Welsh Youth Parliament: A new beginning for Welsh democracy
Mari Wyn Gooberman, Education and Youth Engagement Manager at the National Assembly for Wales talks about working to establish a Welsh Youth Parliament and the challenge to engage learners in the first national online elections for 11-17 year olds.
The time is fast approaching to ‘remember, remember the 5–25 of November’ as this is when the young people of Wales can vote to elect 60 members of the new Welsh Youth Parliament. A historic period for all!
To date the response to the campaign to register as candidates, standing for election, has been overwhelming with the numbers reaching 500. Forty constituency seats will be contested in the first national online elections, next month, whilst simultaneously, further elections will be run by our 14 partner organisations, who will return an additional 20 young people. For a full list of our amazing partners, please follow the link: https://www.youthparliament.wales/partner.
My team of trained teachers and youth workers have delivered presentations/ workshops to over 400 different groups during the past 6 months of the campaign, reaching over 22,000 young people, many in out of school settings. It is clear from these sessions, once you delve into the issues that young people care about ( mental health issues, ending period poverty, equality for LGBT+ young people, better relationships and sex education lessons etc) that they are very aware of the issues that affect them and are incredibly articulate about what they would like to see in the future.
I would urge you to read some blogs from some of the passionate young people we have met along the way to learn why they think the Welsh Youth Parliament will become an important platform to have their say on the issues they care about. https://www.youthparliament.wales/news/
Despite all this enthusiasm, we cannot ignore the real and practical challenges, in inspiring and enabling as many 11-17 year olds to vote. What will be the deciding factor for this next generation of voters? Will it be because a friend is standing? Or a sense of civic duty after learning, during this centenary year, how many have fought for the right to vote? Will they vote because they care about Wales and understand, through our education programmes, that the Assembly can make decisions that affect their lives directly? We shall also see if voting using their phone or tablet will spark their interest to participate or will that spark actually come from the candidates campaigns or an enthusiastic teacher passionate about pupil voice?
As we celebrate the 20th year of the Assembly in 2019 it will be fitting that we also recognise the voice of young people in Wales and their contribution to its work, through the Welsh Youth Parliament.
Mari Wyn Gooberman
Education and Youth Engagement Manager, National Assembly for Wales
The Education and Youth Engagement Service deliver the education programmes at the National Assembly for Wales on behalf of all Assembly Members. This includes engaging with young people across Wales and in the education centre, Siambr Hywel, in Cardiff Bay. The focus of the team’s work is to involve young people in the Assembly’s work and to support the Welsh Youth Parliament.