As a young, working-class black woman interested in politics, I have often found the lack of visible representation in mainstream politics disheartening. The results of the 2019 General Election were labelled as leading to the "most diverse parliament yet" and "record-breaking." with 220 female MPs being elected out of 650 MPs in total, so a modest 34%.
The lack of representation is even more stark when looking at the tnumber of black female MPs. There are only 11 black female MPs, making up only 1.69% of the House of Commons, in comparison to the 1.2 million Black and mixed-race women of Black heritage in England. Black women are not adequately represented in British politics.
While representation is most certainly not the only answer to liberation, representation is fundamental in political institutions and in establishing a functioning democracy - one in which people are fully engaged. As someone who has grown up being under-represented in mainstream media and politics, I can understand why so many people feel apathetic towards politics. Seeing more young and BAME MPs enter politics has made me and other young people feel excited about politics, Zarah Sultana is an example of this!
Being underrepresented in the political system entrenches the idea that young people and ethnic minorities do not have a place in political institutions, which we all do.
As an Ambassador for I have a voice (IHAV), I ran a session on democratic particiaption with City Gateway, which is a charity based in East London offering training, employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young people. When running the session, I asked if they felt represented in politics. All participants stated that they did not feel represented and felt distanced from politics. For a political system that is meant to serve and represent the interests of the public, this is not acceptable and represents a deficit in democracy. Having conversations with the young people at City Gateway made me realise how all too often the views of passionate and articulate young people are ignored in the political system.
However, being part of smaller organisations like IHAV or the British Youth Council has made me realise the significance of my voice and has allowed me to enter political spaces that I would not have known about. To fix the lack of representation in politics, we need more initiatives that actively encourage people to enter the political scene and make politics much more accessible and engaging for young people. At IHAV we're championing peer-led interventions and equipping enthusiastic young people with the tools to go and enthuse other young people to get involved. I hope that by speaking to other young people like me they can see why politics matters to them and why they should take action to get their voices heard.