By: Olivia Clarke, 18 — Manchester, UK
I have always been a loud girl; I never failed to make people aware of my presence and often was too chatty for my own good, mainly to hide my lack of confidence in other areas. I was very aware that I had a voice, I just never knew the power it held.
Within society, there is an illusion that unless you can vote, you shouldn’t have an opinion on such “adult issues,” and until the age of twelve, I truly let this belief silence me. In October 2014, I attended a conference week at ‘RECLAIM’, a Manchester-based charity that provides working-class young people with the opportunity to find their voice and make a change. I discovered a passion for change-making and a key to endless opportunities that allowed me to impact people’s lives within my community and beyond.
That key was and still is my voice. Silence gets you nowhere. I urge you not to make the same mistake that I did, never allow society’s illusions and stereotypes to define you. You are a valuable member of your community; despite what society may lead you to think, you are a leader that can make a change.
Why is it that our opinions are less important on the last day of our 17th year than on the first day of our 18th year?! We are led to believe that unless we can put a cross in a box, we should stay silent. The issues that are voted on and debated among the ‘eligible voters’ are the same issues that affect us as young people, daily and any decisions made regarding these “adult issues” will ultimately affect OUR futures — yet we are supposed to say nothing. The societal expectation of our silence makes us shout louder — this is OUR future, and we don’t want to grow up and live through the mistakes of adults that silence us when our opinions matter most.
Politics is much more than labor or conservatives; politics is also the deep-rooted inequalities that create the systems we’re presented with today. Don’t fear it — fight it. Whether it’s correcting a family member on the outdated terminology they use or challenging a leader during a council meeting, your voice matters. Whether you’re debating about a chocolate bar flavor or debating within Parliament, your voice matters. Regardless of how big or small the subject may be, it is important that you share your thoughts and take the time to express your opinions. Change never came from being silent. Your voice is so powerful, and when you discover the power it holds, there’s no going back.
Your voice is your weapon; use it.