News Blog National Democracy Week: For women and girls to change the world, we need to support them into politics 06 JULY 2018BY MADDIE, GIRLGUIDING ADVOCATE I’m proud to be a Girlguiding Advocate. Our Advocate Panel consists of 18 girls and young women aged 14-25 who work together to give women all over the country the opportunity to voice their opinions and help to influence change on a national level – all this while many of us are revising hard for exams or working hard at university! As part of our work, we help develop the Girls’ Attitude Survey, research drawn on the views of nearly 2000 girls across the UK. In recent years, we have also successfully campaigned to make Relationships and Sex Education statutory and our current campaign focuses on ending period poverty. We have been doing this by taking a period pledge to talk openly about menstruation, as well as the development of a new badge – we know everyone loves a Girlguiding badge! Myself and my fellow Advocates have been so proud this year to join in celebrations of the centenary of some women securing the vote. A real highlight was our presence at Processions, just last month. We developed a beautiful banner alongside designer Sadie Williams showcasing everything Girlguiding stands for, with shiny badges referencing our commitments to campaigns, adventure, and inclusivity. It even included a glittery badge of a tampon love-heart. With thousands of women and girls – including Brownies as young as seven - joining together to celebrate 100 years of women having the vote, the march emboldened us to continue celebrating our right to vote and feel even more encouraged to consider politics as a career. Events like Processions encourage more and more women across the country to develop their knowledge of politics, and as they do, the uneven representation of women becomes more and more obvious. We may have a female Prime Minister and First Minister, but men still overwhelmingly outnumber women in politics, and personally I find this demoralising. Women and girls should feel free to take leadership roles, whether this be on a small or large scale, and I think we all need to do more to ensure they feel comfortable to do so. This year at Girlguiding, we’ve asked all political parties to promise to set a target to make sure there are more female MPs by 2020. A massive 80% of girls aged 11-16 have told us they feel inspired by role models as people they look up to– and seeing more women in politics would be such a powerful way to encourage more girls to learn about politics and see it as a possible career choice. We also hope to encourage more girls to understand the true importance of using their voice for change, whether that’s speaking up at school, taking a leadership role at their Girlguiding group, or using their vote for the very first time. Seeing how far women and girls have come, in terms of achieving the right to vote and getting more women into politics, the anniversary of the right of some women to vote also highlights that more needs to be done. Personally, I feel that girls and young women today don’t receive the proper teaching in schools to truly become involved in politics and use our voices democratically, and this hinders how much my friends and I can fully appreciate the anniversary of our right to vote. Women in politics are often badly represented in the media. Who could forget the headline ‘Legsit’, comparing Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s bodies rather than their policies? The image the media creates of these women, focusing on what they wear or who they speak to, rather than on the great change they bring and the positive influence they have, contributes towards girls and young women not feeling confident to enter the world of politics. In a world where we currently have two women leading the way in England and Scotland, you would think that girls would feel even more empowered and supported, but is this truly the case? Just 43% of girls said that they felt more inspired to be a leader following the arrival of Theresa May into office. If women in politics had a better representation in the media so many more girls than this could feel encouraged to learn about, and enter politics. Through the Girlguiding Advocate Panel, I have had the opportunity to develop my knowledge surrounding politics, but sadly this isn’t an opportunity everyone can experience. It saddens me that amazing anniversaries like the 100th year of some women being able to vote, are dampened for so many girls and young women. These are women and girls who miss out on events like Processions because they don’t feel engaged by the world of politics today. I want more girls and young women to engage in politics, and to understand more about the world we live in today, but to do this we need change. Education surrounding politics needs to be improved, with young women being given a proper opportunity to form their own opinions. The media should play a part in women being encouraged into politics, and I feel women should be given the true support that they deserve, on an equal footing to men – judged by what they say, not how they look. With changes like these, I really hope we can open so many new doors for so many girls and young women across the country, bringing the development of women in leadership roles to the forefront of politics. I know that my generation of girls really can change the world. About author Maddie is 16 and from Southampton. She’s a member of the Girlguiding Advocate Panel, made up of 18 girls and young women aged 14-25 passionate about using their voices to make positive change. She is particularly interested in ensuring the best education is offered to all girls and representation of women in leadership roles.