On Thursday, July 5, Shout Out UK ran an inspiring event with one goal in mind — to ‘hack’ the problem Parliament has with the lack of representation of women, particularly those who are BAME or LGBTQ+.

Despite this year marking the centenary of some women being allowed to vote, the system still does not represent the diversity of our nation, as a mere 32 per cent of the House of Commons are female. This unfortunately low figure highlights the urgent need for more women and minorities throughout our government, as a straight white, male-led system is not demonstrative of the British values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity.

With this in mind, Shout Out set out to deliver a cohesive and feasible solution; their Women In Politics Hackathon. Headlined by several powerful, rousing women already involved in politics, the event hoped to inspire the hundred-plus young men and women present to immerse themselves within democracy and allow their voices to be heard — a phenomenon that remains uncommon.

‘Nobody should be silenced because of their gender’

The speakers present drew from a variety of backgrounds and vocations, but all shared a message of hope — though not without the sentiment that further change is needed if we truly wish to achieve equality. The event was hosted by Alexis Wieroniey, an American comedian and women’s rights activist who allowed everyone in the room to feel relaxed and comfortable, enabling more coherent discussion and setting a positive tone for the talks to come.

One of the issues raised was the need for more education in schools around sex and LGBTQ+ topics. Milly Evans; founder of Our Progress Project, I Support Sex Ed and a campaigner for Stonewall shared her story. From protesting against poor sex education to running two projects working towards societal change, hers was a poignant message for young people, myself included, who refuse to accept the vast imperfections in our education system. This message was echoed by Jo Thompson, a representative of Educate And Celebrate; an organisation that works to change the face of the education system by making schools, colleges and universities more LGBTQ+ inclusive and promote a safe environment for children and teenagers to truly be themselves.

Two MPs also made their support for the cause. Valerie Vaz, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, gave a moving speech about her struggle to be viewed as an equal because of her gender and race. She discussed the double standard prevalent amongst many government officials, where women are often required to have far more qualification than men due to misogynistic misconceptions that men are better in political positions than women. Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, shared the cogent message that ‘Nobody should be silenced because of their gender’ — succinctly synopsising the overall tone of the afternoon. She also discussed how, whilst it was important to celebrate and commemorate the suffragette movement, it is the movements that the young people present today lead that will truly shape the future.

Other speakers, Jenna Davis and Azzees in particular, shared their journey into being involved in politics from disadvantaged backgrounds. Jenna had been excluded from school due to bad behaviour. She discussed how important it was for young people like her to care about and participate in political discussion as it is their future in the balance.

As well as a wide array of thought-provoking speakers, the hackathon also invited the young people in attendance to present their own solutions to the problem the event focused on — the representation of women in politics.

The audience split into eight groups and were given half an hour to discuss, brainstorm and develop their own ideas before putting them forward to a panel of judges collected from members of the Shout Out UK team and the afternoon’s talkers. A plethora of excellent concepts was generated, ranging from youth mentoring schemes to advertising campaigns. However, after much deliberation, the idea that was deemed most viable and received £100 in funding was Over to Youth, a youth news media company that will promote discussion and debate in young people about women’s rights and discrimination.

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