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Harnessing youth power for national good

Harnessing youth- Jacinda Ardern.jpgIt is a sad fact that if you are less than 24 years of age, you are among those least likely to vote in the upcoming Local Body election.

The challenge is to turn this around.

I am one of the youngest Members of Parliament and got involved in politics when I was about 17 years old. That makes me somewhat unusual and passionate about making sure young people have their say.

I recently saw a Local Government Commission Survey, which found that less than 3% of people under the age of 29 voted for representatives on their Community Boards, and Local Councils in the 2007 election.

This low turnout was perhaps not a huge surprise, considering that young people are also poorly represented around both City and District Council tables in New Zealand.

In the last local elections, only five City Councillors and seven District Councillors were under the age of 29.

So, what do we do?

First, as politicians at both Local and Central Government levels, we can and should do a lot more to show young people how the decisions we make affect their day-to-day lives.

Each day, our routine and lives are affected by the decisions made by the Local Government. A Council’s decision to consult our young people whether we support local projects, arts and cultural programmes that enhance cultural diversity also impacts on them.

The Local Government has the power to shape our communities. Young people are the recipients of these decisions, but they should also be participants.

It is not just about showing the importance of participation but also about ensuring that our Councils are truly representative of the people.

We must promote candidates who prove that they are easily accessible to young people and who are happy to answer any of their queries, no matter how small.

Of course, this is a two way street. Young people must take up the opportunities given to them; but we also have the responsibility of motivating and inspiring them to participate in the democratic process.

We must show them that by voting, their voices will be heard and their opinions taken seriously. After all, they are the people who would someday be deciding the future of our nation.

Jacinda Arden is Member of Parliament on Labour List and the Party’s Spokesperson for Youth Affairs. The above article is exclusive to Indian Newslink ©

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