Croydon elections to the UK Youth Parliament

By - Thursday 10th March, 2016

What’s in the manifesto? Liberty Martin talks to Croydon Youth representatives, Jonelle Awomoyi and Kofi O. Frimpong

Members of the Youth Parliament with MP Gavin Barwell. Photo author’s own.

“Democracy is a very, very precious thing because it changes things in a peaceful way”, declared Council Leader Tony Newman before announcing the long-awaited results for the 2016 Croydon UK Youth Parliament elections on Friday 12th February.

Thousands of young Croydonians took part in a democratic process this February to elect two Croydon representatives for UK Youth Parliament (UKYP). Each year, young people aged eleven to eighteen across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put themselves forward to become a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP). They spend a year in office voicing the views of young people in their constituency by organising campaigns and events and debating annually with other MYPs in the House of Commons. MYPs are democratically elected by other young people in their area and have to create their own manifestos and run their own campaign in order to win votes.

Kofi decided to run for UKYP to combat the lack of opportunities and employment for young people

This year, fifteen candidates across Croydon stood for the elections. The young people, whose ages ranged from eleven to eighteen years old, campaigned tirelessly throughout February, speaking in school assemblies and actively engaging with young people in the streets of the town. When Croydon first took part in the UKYP Elections in 2007 only one school was involved, but over almost a decade the elections have expanded to eighteen schools and three colleges, with young people being able to vote at their school, library or local voluntary sector organisation. An impressive 5,547 young Croydonians cast their vote for their representatives this year.

So, having braved a month of campaigning across Croydon, the candidates nervously waited for the results at Croydon town hall. After speeches of congratulations from the mayor, MP Gavin Barwell and various councillors, the two MYPs for Croydon were announced: Year 11 Archbishop Tenison’s Church of England High School student Kofi O. Frimpong and Year 12 Coloma Covent Girls’ School student Jonelle Awomoyi.

With the encouragement of his family, youth council, English teachers and church, Kofi decided to run for UKYP to combat the lack of opportunities and employment for young people. “My big sister has gone back to uni to do her second course and my big brother is in uni right now. The job market is really hard for them”, says Kofi, “so I think people in Croydon need to give more opportunities to find jobs and to make a better living”.

The main focus of Jonelle’s manifesto is tackling mental health

Not only does Kofi take pride in living in Croydon, he also has big aspirations for the future. “I have a plan: go and study law and politics in university and either start a law firm or join a law firm before going into politics, because I believe that for one to be a politician you have to have a good moral background”, declares Kofi. “I think, for me, I can’t just go straight into it; that wouldn’t be right. I just need to go through a process and learn, because the end goal isn’t something that easily comes. You need to work toward it”. Kofi’s passion for Croydon and his cause clearly shone through, as he won 1046 votes.

Photo author’s own.

Likewise, Jonelle, who secured a great total of 893 votes, also has a clear, striking enthusiasm for what she believes in. Whilst serving as the South Croydon representative for the youth cabinet Jonelle saw the impactful work of the MYPs, and thought she too could take on the challenge. The main focus of Jonelle’s manifesto is tackling mental health, an issue she feels very strongly about: “95% of youths who are young offenders suffer from a mental health issue, so if you can help them out before they commit a crime there’ll be less crime”, says Jonelle. “People don’t actually realise when they have [these] issues”.

As a budding vlogger, Jonelle hopes to combine social media and politics. “I’m hoping to try and get in contact with Stormzy and Krept & Konan or other local celebrities in Croydon to be on a radio show and film the radio interviews so that people can go on YouTube and watch it if they missed it. I feel like people will talk more if they feel more comfortable. They can ask Stormzy a question, like ‘did you face this?’, so you’re not alone, in a way”, says Jonelle.

Along with fulfilling their own manifestos, Kofi and Jonelle will also focus on the national UKYP Make Your Mark campaign, ‘Don’t Hate Educate’, which plans to combat racial and religious discrimination. ‘Don’t Hate Educate’ was chosen as UKYP’s national campaign by MYPs after 95,000 young people voted ‘tackling racism and discrimination’ as a priority, including 5,000 young people in Croydon. Both candidates see this as an important issue and are excited to be a part of the campaign.

Liberty Martin

Liberty Martin

Born and raised in Croydon with a rich Jamaican heritage, Liberty Martin is a keen aspiring journalist and writer. After winning the Guardian’s Young Reporter of the Year for Years 10 and 11 in 2014, she’s hungry for a good story and wants to travel and learn about the world around her. Always interested in a topical debate, Liberty’s constantly reading online blogs and news websites to keep up-to-date with the latest news. She’s obsessed with chips slathered in vinegar, elephants, Frank Ocean and wants an extensive library of books in her future home. At school Liberty is studying English Literature, Spanish and History at A Level and sings in her school choir.

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