By Pauline Latham
MP for Mid-Derbyshire
George Bernard Shaw once famously said that youth is wasted on the young. I would guess that in saying this, what he meant was that the future should not be held in the hands of the inexperienced.
In my experience, it is quite the reverse, and I believe that it is our responsibility to educate the young on how to engage with and better the world around them.
As some of you may be aware, March 8 marked International Women’s Day; a day on which women’s global social, cultural and political achievements are celebrated.
There were a number of interesting events taking place in Parliament in honour of the day, and I invited six girls from schools in my constituency to shadow me for the day and take part in some of the activities on offer.
The girls watched me take part in a debate about women’s contribution to the economy, and I was pleased that they evidently enjoyed it. I think it is vital that we instil in young women in this country a sense that they do have the power to influence democracy and that they should get involved with the political system.
The best example of an effective youth engagement programme however, is the charity Free the Children, which I am a board member of. Free the Children seek to encourage young people to set up their own charitable initiatives in school and contribute to their Adopt a Village programme, which creates infrastructure in less developed countries all around the world.
Last week, they held a great event at Wembley Arena, and it was fantastic to see the venue packed with 12,000 eager students that had taken part in the programme.
The results of these students’ efforts are testament to the ability of the young to change the world in which they live, and the programme has now provided clean water, sanitation and access to healthcare for over one million people worldwide. Children are our future and it is essential that we as the adults use our power in whatever capacity we have to create a socially and politically responsible society. Free the Children provides students with invaluable support to allow them to have an impact around the world, and I would suggest that all the schools in Belper and across my constituency find out more about them and get involved with their work. If you are a student or a teacher and would like more information about Free the Children, please contact my parliamentary office for guidance or visit Free the Children’s website at 9iuwww.freethechildren.co.uk.