Ahead of the snap general election in June of this year, Headliners interviewed six young people from East London to find out their thoughts.

The first question was on how they felt about the snap election, whether it was too early or not? Their response was intriguing. ‘An early election is very good because we have someone new to represent us and we should have a say on who actually represents us’ said Suraiya who is registered to vote. However, Kimberly who is ineligible to vote felt differently; ‘An early election does not give other people a chance to vote… some of us are turning 18 this year and it doesn’t give us a say (voice) on which parties are going to represent young people’.

I won’t be physically able to go out there and be informed about the election because I am focusing on my exams

This point raises a common question about why 16 and 17 years can’t vote in a General Election when they can join the army at similar age. Should 16 and 17 year olds allowed to vote in a General Election?

The second question was on whether young people are represented enough in politics and it was interesting to hear Shakeina say that ‘Young people are not represented as they should be…since you are younger [its thought] you might not have as many opinions about the world because you haven’t seen what the world has to offer, but we are the next generation’. Mona argued that, ‘we (young people) are part of the campaign, because politicians are planning to give free school food to young children and scrap the institution fee’, before agreeing with Shakeina that young people are not represented enough. She suggested politicians should come to ‘us’ young people and explain what they are doing for young people. Another young person Shalul also agreed, ‘there is a common thought that young people are oblivious to what’s going in the State (government) and because of this they (politicians) think they can do whatever and we will just accept it. This means we are not being represented enough’.

It was interesting to hear all of them agree with each other on the issue. Since they felt that politicians are not representing young people enough, the third question was whether they were engaged in politics enough to make an informed decision to vote. Almost all of those registered to vote felt that they weren’t informed enough. They admitted that it might be because they don’t, “honestly follow news”, and they heard of the General Election through social media.

There is a common thought that young people are oblivious to what’s going in the State

This raises a further question: Are young people are less engaged in politics because they are not represented enough? Or are young people not represented enough because they are less engaged in politics? Regardless, the young people feel frustrated at the timing of the election as it takes place when students are taking final exams. Fahmida explained that ‘because of this (exams) I won’t be physically able to go out there and be informed about the election because I am focusing on my exams’. She makes a point but whether this will affect the turnout of young people’s votes remains to be seen.

We finished of the interview by asking their suggestions on what politicians can do to ensure more and more young people are involved in politics. They all gave suggestions which could be effective if followed including politicians going to schools and talking to students, politicians going to youth’s clubs and debate on issues affecting young people and more representatives for young people.

This story was written by Mathew Mugodhi  

The participants in the interview were: Fahmida, Shakeina, Shalal, Panashe, Kimberly and Muna.