It’s 2018 and - let’s face it - quite a politically turbulent time in the UK. Brexit, austerity and worries about the future of the NHS mean that none of us know exactly what our country might look like in a few years time. I’m an optimist at heart so I don’t think this has to mean doom and gloom but it does mean that we have to get involved to make sure that we build the future we want. To shape a future that works for everyone we all need to be involved in the political debate. And by all, I mean all.
Yet currently there are some voices missing from the discussion - women, younger people, people of ethnic minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are woefully underrepresented.
Men outnumber women 2:1 in parliament while in polls 25% of women said they didn't know who to vote for versus only 10% of men. 25% of first generation ethnic minorities eligible to register to vote haven't done so vs 10% white British. In the 2017 election only 43% of 18-24 year olds voted versus 78% of over 65s. Even where you live can affect how influential you feel when it comes to the countries political decisions.
It's vital that there are no voices missing from the public debate and that's why I'm really pleased to be launching our new Voicebox Cafés project. Next week, the first Cafés will run, as part of celebrating Equaliteas fortnight during 18 June-2 July.
Taking place in 36 Online Centres across England, Voicebox Cafés will then continue throughout 2018, engaging traditionally excluded women to understand, celebrate and participate in democracy and public life. They'll offer an informal, friendly space for women living in these communities to build their own and each other's confidence in speaking out on issues that matter to them, discovering how to use their democratic voice to the full. Focussing on women aged 18-30 and those from BAME groups, the project is funded by Government Equalities Office under the Women's Vote Centenary Grant Scheme.