An extraordinary event took place at Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday, 27th June 2012, the UK’s first “Have Your Say Day” for young people was held in the Council Chamber. The event was introduced by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington and Shadow Public Health Minister. She explained the importance of Freedom of Speech but said what was being espoused had to be listened to and heard. “Young people have less opportunities to get their views and opinions across,” she said, “Have Your Say Day gives these young individuals a chance to express themselves on some of the different issues important to them.”
The event was chaired by Cllr Michael Desmond, who also chairs Society Syndrome, he said he had been on the original Planning Committee for the Olympic Games and did not want them disrupted by campaigns or protesters, it was far better for people to have their say today – exactly a month before the start of the Games. The intention was to give young adults a platform to get their views across; time would be available for people of any age to have their say towards the end of the meeting.
Over 50 young adults were present from Hackney Community College, BSix, Lambeth, Croydon, Redbridge, Newham, Lewisham and Margate; controversial topics were raised and discussed including: Stop & Search, smoking, high premiums on motor insurance for younger people, difficulty finding a first job, the low ratio of female MPs compared to male ones and problems obtaining proof of nationality even for some long-standing residents.
Uche Umolu of Loxford School of Science and Technology in Ilford started an interesting debate on the need for more female representation in politics, she spoke from the heart saying it was dismal how few women were in the Cabinet, saying women often had special skills and talent which was not reflected in the current composition of Parliament, some others present countered saying councillors & MPs should be elected on merit, not just because of their gender.
Annaelle Kebani & Rochelle Thompson from Woodford County School complained how expensive everything was for young people, especially motor insurance for females who statistically make less claims. A number of speakers mentioned they had been victims of stop & search, questioning police tactics and the indignity they felt, Diane Abbott and Cllr Desmond said they would raise the issue with the police.
Martin Dockrell of ASH, the anti-smoking group, spoke about health issues affecting young people and how tobacco companies through creative marketing, were still enticing young people to smoke. Most present agreed with his sentiments, students from BSix College explained the attitude of the college and how smoking was discouraged. Hubert Howard, a local resident, explained how he had come to Britain in 1960 but due to changes in immigration controls, his employer sacked him because he could not prove his status. “Dealing with UK Border Agency was like being in a labyrinth with no way out”.
The event was neatly summed up by Alexandra Winning, one of the students at BSix College who said: “it’s good to hear other people’s views on topics I’m interested in”.
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