The sky is falling:

When I open my twitter feed I can’t help but think of chicken little’s famous four words. Social media, newspapers and various other platforms are being drowned in passionate views on the recent referendum – which is great to see at such a momentous time like this – though I feel some of us ought to be reminded the line between passionate and aggressive can often become blurred, especially when you are met with responses you don’t necessarily agree with.

The contentious nature of politics leads many to argue it is something which should not be discussed in social settings, though I disagree in that it should be discussed, but regarded with the utmost diligence; being mindful of the rights, freedoms and feelings of others. Freedom of speech is just as much of a democratic right as voting a certain way in a referendum; you have every right to articulate yourself on any platform you choose, as long as you put some thought into the way this is done.

Yes, the state is currently in shambles, though the way we handle this as individuals has a great impact on the way this event is recorded in history. We’re so fortunate to be experiencing this at a time where social platforms provide us with a space to have a voice so that we don’t have to take to the streets, rioting with unclear messages. By all means if you think your physical presence is the best way to express yourself, I strongly urge you to protest peacefully, as many great figures in history have, where messages are clearly thought out instead of an act of aggression.

The sky may be falling, but above it is unknown space that we have the power to determine the nature of.

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Local Elections!

London Elects

Working within local government makes me full of excitement for the upcoming elections, however, the feeling isn’t mutual with most people I speak to (shocker there?) Below, I have compiled a list of reasons for why individuals may not vote alongside some suggestions, which will hopefully help combat the evil that plagues most elections – poor turn out.

1.The ‘I don’t know who to vote for’ reason

Up until this point, candidates’ communications strategies may have been fairly subtle to avoid overwhelming and annoying voters with their campaigns. However, with less than a month to go, there’s no doubt mailboxes and community notice boards will be flooded with flyers, brouchers and various other forms of information to help you make an informed decision about who, and more importantly, what you’re voting for. Key points of candidates and their policies can also be found online, especially since the Transparency Fund has provided opportunities for smaller authorities to increase their online presence.

2.The ‘local elections aren’t as important as parliamentary elections’ reason

Local authorities are at the heart of combating the challenges facing communities, working on a more local level, councils often a better understanding of their residents and how issues may be impacting them. MPs and Parliament are increasingly seen as being out of touch with ‘real people’, but local authorities are seminal in forming better links between Westminster and communities, through the work they do with other bodies in the sector. Furthermore, local authorities play an important role in keeping public spaces clean and accessible, as well as promoting multiculturalism and community cohesion.

3.The ‘I don’t have time’ reason

No time? No problem! There’s two simple solutions to this very common reason for not voting – you can either register for a postal vote via your local authority or register with a proxy; where you appoint someone you trust to vote on your behalf. Do note, however, both of these methods must be registered for in advance of the election day – be sure not to leave it too late as you may miss the opportunity!

4.The sad, but honest, ‘I can’t be bothered’ reason

Unlike the other reasons for not voting, the answer to this one is more of a simple – yet hopefully effective – rant: We have the privilege of living in a country where one of the many political freedoms we exercise is the ability to elect our public officials. Many countries all over the world are still fighting for this privilege. If you’re not voting because you feel a great sense of apathy, vote to honour the fight your ancestors fought. Vote for someone you like, vote against someone you dislike, spoil your ballot – just use it!

#INTERNATIONAL Womens Day

For most of us, International Women’s Day is known for the ritual of posting, liking and sharing quotes and photos of the types of women we aspire to both be and know. It’s a time where women come together and unite under this hashtag to celebrate proud achievements as well as share hopes for where we’d like to be in coming years. Whilst many of us – myself included – feel empowered by sharing such moments, I think we easily forget about the ‘International’ aspect to this movement; we forget about the many places in the world where women are failing to be empowered.

Many of us have been fortunate in the societies in which we have been raised – societies where the education, drive and independence of women is championed from a young age. However, the harsh reality remains that in many communities, abilities and opportunities are inarguably linked to gender. What you do, where you go and who you become is not in the control of these women because they lack the resources and communities that should empower them. Whilst we could discuss (at length) the various reasons for this disparity, it’s important to recognise such disparity continues to plague women all over the world, in different forms.

Women predominantly in African and Asian countries, are fighting for unhygienic FGM procedures – which continue to be performed widely on girls as young as 10 – to be abolished. Women in less developed countries are fighting for girls to be able to go to school, child marriages to become illegal, the right to fair trials. Women all over the world are fighting the forces that are failing to empower them.

It’s easy for us to continue our day-to-day lives not thinking of the struggles others may face around the world; International women’s day isn’t one of these days. It’s a day for women to empower and be empowered, regardless of where in the world they are so I ask for us all to talk about and share causes completely unrelated to our circumstances, and how we promise to empower these women through raising awareness of the need for women’s day to truly be international.

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#PrayForParis ‘BUT’…

Whilst scrolling through various platforms of social media, I’ve seen an abundance of posts claiming ‘#PrayForParis but…’ then going on to draw attention to crises in the Middle East, African and Asian continents. I’d just like to take a moment to really think about what this individual is suggesting; that one tragedy holds more significance than another, that one kind of death is more painful or more important than another. You’re turning someone’s grief into a political statement. In effect, you’re telling them this grief is misplaced because it is focusing on a Western tragedy.

As a Politics student, I am in full understanding of how bias the stories we are presented with are, how there is an imbalance of coverage from East to West but bringing this to attention during a Western tragedy is the least most effective and intelligent way to do this – by doing so, you essentially come across as ignorant, ill-informed, and above all, insensitive. Whilst you may want to bring attention to these issues, using the word ‘but’ is not the way to do this, especially in reference to another tragedy.

Let us focus on how France has helped other nations facing hardship; being the fourth largest European taker of refugees (statistics taken from and available at: Eurostat asylum applications) – France was there for others during a difficult time, so it’s only right we do the same during theirs.

I didn’t mean to offend anyone in my views, I think everyone has a right to say what they feel, though should consider the language they use when doing so.

Finally, my thoughts are with those in and around Paris, Beirut and every other nation tragedy is looming over.

 

#62MillionGirls:

Michelle Obama

62 million. That’s too big a number.

When I think about all the children in the world who are denied the right to be educated, it makes me appreciate my life that much more. My education has brought me so much; I’m fortunate enough to have been taught to read and write from a young age, move to a different city for University, a different country for an exchange programme. Everything in my life that I love – my friends, my hobbies, my travels – have come from the fact that I was afforded the opportunity to be educated.

In school I learned to read and write, read articles and books and thoughts that empowered me and made me feel like I could change the world. Reading and writing is something I will always love, it's gotten me through the hardest of times and made me want to share the brightest of times. I learnt about different customs and languages, allowing me to break cultural barriers and move to a foreign country. In school I learnt just how lucky I was to have an education; #62MillionGirls do not have this chance. Let's change that, #LetGirlsLearn
In school I learned to read and write: read articles and books and thoughts that empowered me and made me feel like I could change the world. Reading and writing is something I will always love, it’s gotten me through the hardest of times and made me want to share the brightest of times. I learnt about different customs and languages, allowing me to break cultural barriers and move to a foreign country. In school I learnt just how lucky I was to have an education; #62MillionGirls do not have this chance. Let’s change that, #LetGirlsLearn

 

2015 Leader’s Debate:

With the general election fast approaching, political parties and their leaders seem to be everywhere you look. As a politics student, I couldn’t resist a post on the televised leaders debate. However, instead of focusing on the winners and losers, I want to share my thoughts on what the debate represents beyond the discussion of stances on different policy areas.

1. Presidential style campaigns: Voting for leaders if we like them, instead of policies 

In recent years, the growing focus on party leaders and their personal lives – most notably their spousal choices – has led to the belief the UK’s elections are becoming more and more like that of our American counterparts with prospective Prime Ministers running Presidential-like campaigns. Televised debates have been central to American Presidential campaigns since the 1960’s, being used as the first test to candidates ability to ‘President’ (represent national values, argue effectively, defend policy stance); though it wasn’t until 2010 when the UK had their first. The televised debates have the primary importance of seeing how the candidates handle pressure: side by side comparisons of how well they present their ideas and defend their parties from criticism. Days after the debates, talk shows, newspapers and social media held huge discussions on the body language, facial expressions and overall representations of the candidates. The debates increasingly showed voters deciding on whether they liked the party leader, as opposed to their stance on policy areas.

2. No longer a two party system

With the inclusion of the Liberal Democrats in the last televised debate and the surprising outcome of the coalition government from the previous election, debates on the UK no longer being a two-party system heated up. The 2010 televised leadership debates had a profound effect on the election results by being seen as the starting point for Nick Clegg’s widespread popularity, his fresh take aided the emergence of the Liberal Democrats as a realistic, feasible alternative to two-party ping pong with polls suggesting he ‘won’ the first debate.

Although many argue the inclusion of minor parties in the 2015 debate will do little to aid a bid for Prime Minister, these minor parties are given the chance to present themselves to a bigger audience by being on a platform almost everyone has access to; an opportunity minor parties often lack due to limits in resources and funding for grassroots action. In my opinion, the televised debate was most important for these smaller parties by helping them reach wider audiences. And to the surprise of many, the leader of a minor party, went on to ‘win’ this debate.

3. Women

Whilst watching the debate, I found it difficult to contain my inner feminist. Not only was the debate hosted by a female, but the stage saw not one, or two, but three female party leaders. Arguably the most successful performance of the evening – not just among the females, but all the candidates – came from the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon. My thoughts were a constant trail of ‘you go girl’ throughout.

 

To wrap this up, I just wanted to finish by urging those of you who can, to vote in this election. Vote for someone you like, vote for policies you like, or tick a random box if you think they’re all the same. Our ancestors fought for us to have this right, the least we can do is honour them by exercising it.