I want young people to get involved in politics
19 November, 2021 — By Rosie Kurnaz
Rosie Kurnaz with mayor Cllr Troy Gallagher
I’VE always been interested in politics from a really young age, but I didn’t apply it until I chose Citizenship as a GCSE. My Turkish background and the politics in Turkey has led me to be more aware of the politics in the UK and how privileged I am to be in a country with such a democratic system.
In the UK I feel like you have more of a voice, and people from a range of backgrounds or from specific intersects within society can get into politics in the UK. In other countries, it may be more difficult because people want to keep the status quo.
I was elected as Youth Mayor in March 2021 and I’ve attended so many different events since then. On Sunday, for example, I was in the Remembrance Day parade and I had the opportunity to lay a wreath on behalf of the Youth Council and the young people in Islington.
I want to make sure that more young people have a voice as well as get involved in politics.
Youth safety is also important to me: I live in the borough with the fifth-highest rate of youth crime in London. It’s also very important to me that young people have the opportunities to thrive regardless of whether they take A-levels or apprenticeships.
As Youth Mayor, there are so many things to do: last week, I attended about four events. I’m learning how to balance everything, how to balance my role with my social life and my studies because I’m an A-level student and I have my exams in May.
When I go to events and say my age to people, they are very surprised. When I ask them why they say: because you look like that, and because of the way you speak.
Sometimes it may be harmless but other times people have commented on the way I dress because I’m usually a person who wears skirts and dresses. But I feel like a skirt and a dress is a formal piece of clothing! We need to get rid of the way women are still sexualised in politics.
I believe it’s more difficult for women to be in politics than men, because women get judged just from the way they look. So many women are sexualised and are seen as tactics and a way for the party to get what they want.
However, I believe it’s gradually progressing as I feel like my generation is going to change things.
I’ve also learned that being in youth politics is a massive responsibility.
I’ve learned that politics isn’t how the media portrays it to be. The media only portrays the good parts, but I don’t feel like it portrays the difficult parts, or how tired you get when you do it.
Another thing I’ve learned is there’s a crisis of youth participation.
I’ve learned not as many young people are actually involved in politics as much as I thought would be.
There are so many ways young people can get involved in politics. Meetings are such valuable things that young people should take advantage of. Just because you’re not allowed to tick a box on a piece of paper doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in politics.
There’s a common notion in politics that the older you are, the more wise and educated you are. But that doesn’t mean different perspectives shouldn’t be shown. A younger person may not have as much experience but that doesn’t mean their voice isn’t valuable.
While we feel like politicians take young people seriously, they genuinely don’t. It seems as if they do because of the way politicians interact with young people. It’s as if the young people are only listened to for the sake of politicians’ reputations, or so politicians can go on social media and say: ‘I attended this.’ They do it for show, not from actual curiosity or care.
I’m aspiring to study law and politics at university. After that, I am looking for a career in politics, hopefully becoming involved in local politics first, becoming a councillor, and then working my way up the ranks. Local politics is where politics begins.
• Rosie Kurnaz is Islington’s Youth Mayor
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