Future leaders of Portsmouth gear up for Youth Parliament elections

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YOUNG people from across the city are putting their best forward in preparation for the upcoming elections for the Member of Youth Parliament (MYP). 

Four young people, who are members of the Portsmouth Youth Cabinet are running for MYP – the role given to a person aged between 11 and 18-years-old who is elected by fellow young people to represent their age group within the area and lead the Youth Cabinet locally. 

MYPs attend events such as national debates, government consultations, training days and planning events to share their ideas and the ideas of their young constituents. 

They often speak to Ministers, including the Prime Minister, about issues and policies that concern them. 

Each year, around 300 MYPs meet together to debate issues that affect young people in the Houses of Commons, deciding on the national campaign for that year. 

Unusually, Portsmouth also has a Youth Cabinet, led by the MYP, which seeks to represent the views of all young people in the city and work with decision makers to drive positive change. 

Jo Morgan from Engendering Change, who runs the Youth Cabinet said: ‘It has been such a joy to facilitate the power of youth voice to embed meaningful and lasting change in Portsmouth. Their work with asylum seeking children, LGBTQ young people and youth groups across the city has shown the incredible things that can happen when young people are empowered to connect with the community. Their most recent project with Shaping Portsmouth, to create part-time job opportunities for teenagers has the potential to be transformative.’

Lesley Otitoju is running for MYP as she wants to promote sexual education in schools, as well as diversity, equality and inclusion.

Lesley said: ‘Most of all I stand for equality and inclusion, I want to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives in schools and community programs, advocate for policies that address discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality, and other factors. Together, let’s embark on a journey where the voices of the youth are not just heard but actively shape the decisions that affect us.’

Louis Morgan from St. Edmunds School is the youngest member of youth parliament in the running for MYP. He is standing to provide more free sports services for young people in Portsmouth to support their physical and mental health. 

Louis said: ‘Too many teenagers are stressed due to pressure at school and at home. One of my main priorities will be to provide free sports activities to help teenagers with their physical and mental health. I may be the youngest but I’m the wisest. What I lack in age, I make up for in drive and I will work for you to make Portsmouth a better place to grow up.’ 

Mackenzie Bird from Havant College is passionate about creating more opportunities and believes more young people should be able to find jobs. 

Mackenzie said: ‘I want to use my position to drive the power of student voice. I’m deeply passionate about creating opportunities for youth employment. 91% of teenagers in Portsmouth want a job, yet 67% are unable to get one. Young people deserve to be heard and I want to listen.’ 

Maheep from Ark Charter Academy believes in equity and plans to advocate for those who are struggling to get their voices heard. 

She said: ‘Teenagers often get a bad name, but we have proven how much good we can bring to the community. One of my greatest strengths is my ability to build positive relationships. I bring a smile and positive attitude when I am working with both young people and decision makers. I will use my strengths to advocate for young people who do not have a voice, particularly those struggling at home or school and those suffering with mental health issues.’

Each candidate has written and created a short video outlining why people should vote for them, which will be posted on the Youth Cabinet’s Instagram page on Monday, February 26. 

The polls will be open from February 29 until March 8 and votes can be made online. 

The winner will be announced at a special event hosted by the Lord Mayor in his Chamber in the Guildhall on Friday, March 8. 

Suzy Horton, the Cabinet Member for children, families and education regularly supports the youth cabinet. 

She said: ‘We want our Youth Cabinet, working alongside the Member of Youth Parliament, to be an authentic voice of young people in shaping their experiences in the city through the work of the council and other decision makers. 

‘Too often children get bad press when we know that the vast majority are motivated, innovative and enthusiastic and will soon be the adults of tomorrow. I have been both impressed and humbled by what this current Cabinet has achieved in taking the big conversations around equalities, the environment and the world of work to the people with power.’ 

An online meeting will be held via Zoom on Thursday, February 29 from 6pm, to allow people to meet the candidates and ask them any questions about their manifestos. 

The voting will open at 7pm that evening.

Young people are being encouraged to read each candidates’ manifesto and vote based on the changes they’d like to see highlighted in the city. 

They can watch the short campaign videos made by each candidate and cast their vote here.

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