Covid-19 and the Wales Youth Parliament
I am 16 years old and currently living in Swansea. I haven’t been here since I was born. I have been living here for nearly 3 years. Now it is my home. I speak 4 languages: Arabic, Kurdish, Greek and English and I am also learning Welsh. I have been a Welsh Youth Parliament member for the past 2 years so let me tell you how this came about.
When I first came to Swansea, I wanted to get involved in everything and to help everyone so I talked to the Women’s Group about this. Then one day Jeni Williams (from the Women’s Group) called me and told me about the Welsh Youth Parliament (WYP) elections. She explained how it works and why I would be a suitable young person to stand as a candidate. Obviously, I didn’t think that I would be successful, or that I would get elected but I decided to try and so I put my name down.
First, I had to wait until registration opened to apply to it but, at the same time, I had to start campaigning and asking young people aged 11-18 to vote for me. Jeni helped me with my manifesto and introduced me to a lady called Carol who works for Swansea-based international charity Women4Resources. She became my mentor. I created social media posts and made a campaign and with Jeni and Carol’s help I was preparing my campaign until the votes opened. Then, one day I had a call informing me that I had been elected as a Welsh Youth Parliament member! I was so happy. I can still remember the proud feelings that I had on that day and a long-lasting smile!
Almost immediately I began to do things I had never imagined doing. I was really proud to be asked to unveil a blue plaque to a former headmistress Clara Neal. Clara worked at Terrace Road Primary School and was in the past a campaigner for women’s voting rights, and leading member of the Swansea branch of the Women’s Freedom League and an amazing woman.
WYP work is the most interesting work that I could do as it’s mostly about other young people’s feelings and opinions on topics that affect them personally.
Since the lockdown the way we work has changed.
Before the lockdown the full meetings of WYP were in the Senedd in Cardiff with smaller meetings in regional centres. For me that meant meeting in Swansea, Port Talbot and other places. But during the lockdown we started making them online in group video calls. The main thing that we do on the day that we meet is informing other WYP members on what we have been doing. Staff of the WYP also inform us about any new and important updates.
Obviously since the lockdown, everything has been very tough for people trying to work online from home whether it’s school or business work. At the same time, I had to come up with a way to stay in contact with the young people that I represent and keep up to date with them and any emerging issues and needs. To keep everything going I’m using my social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter or WhatsApp. One or two days every week I spend a few hours talking to one to one to young people I represent in order to try to come up with solutions to problems and to discuss any concerns that I need to represent.
In the first meeting that all of the 60 WYP we decided on three committees with each one of us choosing to attend one of these three. The one I that decided to go into is the mental health one. I know that so much work needs to be done here as lots of young people that I meet are being affected by bad mental health. The Welsh Government has done reports on mental health issues under Covid-19 and we contribute to discussions and to policy and provision. We meet every few months to update what we’ve done and decide what are the new things that were going to do.
I love doing my WYP work because I feel that I’m helping and supporting others. At the same time I’m looking forward on making a big change that everyone will remember in the future.
My main plans for the future are to stay in education, keep up with WYP, and what I’m really looking forward to is the CHANGE!