Young women demand to be heard this federal election, so listen up

This article was originally published on Women’s Agenda and is written by Michelle Phillips, CEO of YWCA Australia.

The issues that concern young women could very well be the issues that decide the upcoming federal election.

We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of youth activists making their voices heard on issues like poverty, climate change and affordable housing. Research shows that increasing numbers of young people are participating in protests and sharing unofficial political content. Despite what you may think, young people, especially young women, care deeply about the outcome of this election.

In fact, young people are now Australia’s largest voting cohort – growing by 30,000 every year. The youth enrolment rate is at the highest level ever with 88.8 percent of eligible 18 to 24-year-olds enrolled to vote.

At the forefront of this youth activism are inspiring young women who are demanding more action from our political leaders on gender equality. Driven by the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, young women are becoming a powerful force for good.

I have the privilege to work alongside some of these young female leaders in Australia. They are members of YWCA Australia’s Young Women’s Council, a democratically elected council which represents diverse communities in every state and territory in Australia. Together, they raise their voices to draw attention to the issues that matter to them and other young women in Australia – demonstrating our commitment to ‘women leading change’.

Their voices and concerns are captured in a new social media video series debuted by  this week, along with our 2019 Election Platform. These young women have bold aspirations for a future where gender equality becomes the norm.

Our youngest council member is Tanmaya Vivekandand – at 12 years of age, Tanmaya is calling for more action on the gender pay gap. There’s also, Harpeet Dillion, who is 19 years old and wants to see more funding for disability, employment and housing services, while Georgina Morphett is in her early 20s and wants young women’s voices to be heard and adequately represented in government.

As a feminist organisation focused on improving gender equality, we’re proud to support young women’s voices during this election campaign. Our #SHEvotes event in Adelaide today is an election forum focusing on the impact of policy on women. At this event, we are creating the opportunity for young women and girls to hear from and meet with candidates from major political parties and to ask questions about what really matters to them.

This election, we’re calling for urgent funding to improve access to women’s housing as well as investment in programs relating to primary prevention of gender-based violence.

Access to safe, affordable and appropriate housing is a feminist issue. Family violence, part-time and casual employment, and family care duties often leave women, especially older women, at an economic disadvantage and at risk of homelessness.

Women need to feel safe in the world they live in. Violence against women is a social issue, one that needs to be addressed with primary prevention programs that change the structures, norms and practices that drive gender-based violence.

The fact that gender inequality continues to be a major barrier to the realisation of rights and access to opportunities for women, young women and girls across Australia is simply not good enough. We demand more from our political leaders – and we look forward to seeing many more young women leading change.

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