Courage Calls: Ask her to stand event by Jemimah Lumbu

Ask Her to Stand Panel discussion with Seyi Akiwowo

My name is Jemimah Lumbu, I am 15 years old and study at Cardinal Pole Roman Catholic School in Hackney. Last week I was presented with the opportunity to go to an event that was based on encouraging young women into political life. Women are less represented in parliament, so this event engaged me into wanting to be the voice for my community, or just having a voice overall.

The event taught us about ways to overcome the obstacles in front of us including how to campaign and where we could get support to stand. We also heard from women in Parliament who openly giving first hand positive and negative experiences and aspects of the job.

The event was a knowledge packed, engaging and inspiring day and gave me a broader insight of the political world. It gave a real insight into the process and dynamics behind politics behind the view you always see politics in the newspaper or on the TV. It helped to break down negative and boring stereotypes I has about politics for example what did a political party actually accomplish? Did they only speak to older people, go to parliament and argue over each other about nothing?

For me, it was meeting Catherine Mayer, the co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party and hearing Seyi Akiwowo speak about her experiences that made it all feel more relatable.

Seyi knew how to motivate us and speak in terms we’d understand whilst some of the other panellists used words that weren’t accessible to the 14-18 years in the audience. She related to me and I believe every other girl in the room as well. Seyi is a black woman and comes from an area where people like her aren’t expected to reach big positions. Seyi is also young and didn’t go to a top of the league table university so other may look down on her but she felt much more relatable to me.

After the panel discussion, we were asked to take part in a couple of workshops. These sessions allowed me to socialise with others of different backgrounds so that we were able to come together to identify what the barriers in front of us were that made it difficult to get involved in campaigning or getting into politics. At the end of the session we were each given badges and leaflets, which helped make it feel like we were part of something big and gave us the contacts we’d need if we decided we wanted to get involved in politics.

One of the things I really loved was a Virtual Reality stand on the past of the suffragettes. In the exercise we were confronted with historical challenges the suffragettes had faced and had to use our voices to break the barriers down. For me the emphasis that our voices are important needed and that we should use them was one of the best parts of the event.

As I left, it was almost like I left all the negative barriers and perceptions on the pieces of paper we used to write them down on. I left with power and presence.