Too Young Too Vote? Here's How To Get Heard
Being the smart and engaged global citizens that Em readers are, I’m sure that you’re aware that New Zealand's government is currently being decided in the election.
The news, Social Media and dinner table conversations are all completely dominated by politics … which kind of sucks if you’re not 18 and therefore can’t vote.
But fear not, politics savvy readers, if you care about the future of Aotearoa and you want the world to know it. Here are three ways to have your voice heard, even if you’re too young to vote:
1 – Write to your MP
Every area in the country has a local Member of Parliament or MP, whose job it is to represent the opinions of the local community in parliament when it makes law. It’s their job to listen to and help anyone who lives in the area, and that includes YOU!
If you see a problem in your neighbourhood, like a busy road that makes your walk to school dangerous, why not send them an email – if they can’t help you, they should be able to tell you who can.
When I started my petition calling for improvements to mental health education, I emailed my MP. We had a meeting about the petition process and who has influence in education – it was honestly one of the most helpful things I did.
The great thing about living in a small country like New Zealand is that it’s easy to get time with MPs compared to other countries. Seriously, don’t be intimidated to contact them, because it’s their job to listen to and help you.
You can find out your Electorate (area) and MP at this link: https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/members-of-parliament/
2 – Start a petition
In such a big world, it can often feel like your voice is drowned out, but if we join together with other people who agree, it’s much harder for it to be ignored!
That's why I started my petition about Mental Health Education, because I knew that a lot of other people felt the way I did, and it’s received over 10, 000 signatures!
If there is an issue you are passionate about, for example consent, or single use plastic – consider a specific action that someone could take towards fixing it, and start making some noise.
Whether your petition gets 10 signatures or 10 000, it’s a great way to build a community of people who agree with you and support you!
You can then present it to decision makers on the issue whether that’s a politician, local business owner, or your school principal. I used the platform https://our.actionstation.org.nz/ but you could collect signatures on paper or there’s plenty of other online options, like change.org.
3 – Get Creative
For as long as there has been politics, artists have been using their creative talent to influence and protest people in power. Musicians from Beethoven to the Black Eyed Peas have called for change with their music and recently, artists like Ai Weiwei and Banksy have used their art to spread messages that can cross language barriers.
If you care about an issue why not create music, video or an art installation about it, and use social media to spread the message far and wide?
Often people will be more willing to take the time to consider art that delivers a message in a striking or beautiful way than they will be to read pages and pages of writing or be argued with.
So use your talents and create some art with both function and form.
Whether you’re counting down the days until you turn 18 and you can vote, or maybe you think politics is straight up boring, politics isn’t something that just happens in the beehive or the White House - it affects all of our lives everyday.
We’re so so lucky to live in a country where we have democracy and the opportunity to make change. So whether you’re 18 or not, I urge you to get learning and take action, it’s a great way you can change peoples lives for the better.
Lucy McSweeney took NZ by storm when she campaigned to get compulsory mental health education in schools, so that students know how to look after their wellbeing and how to look after their friends when they’re feeling distressed. Over 10,000 Kiwis signed her campaign, which she presented to parliament in June 2017.