To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Robin Newton, MBE MLA, hosted a special debate in the Assembly Chamber which brought together 70 young women representing 28 schools and youth organisations from across Northern Ireland.
The young women, including representatives from Integrated College Dungannon, presented statements on the issues that are important to them, with topics ranging from women’s health and education to the need to increase and better support female participation in politics, the workplace and society as a whole.
The Assembly Speaker said: ““While we cannot ignore the fact that the Assembly is currently in a difficult political situation, it does not mean that we should stop focusing on areas where we would like to see progress in the future. For that reason, I was very keen to grant the rare privilege of using the Chamber for today’s event to underline how important it is for the Assembly to listen to upcoming generations, particularly young women, and to encourage them to engage in the democratic process.
“With greater female representation and participation, the Assembly can better reflect our local communities, and effectively influence decision making and the provision of our public services. This means not only seeking to increase the number of female MLAs, but also encouraging young women to see politics as a very real and tangible opportunity for them to make a difference. Today’s event demonstrated that there are many young women who are keen to get involved in the political process and to make their voices heard on the issues that are important to them.”
The event was also attended and supported by the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Women’s Caucus, a cross-party group of female MLAs which was officially launched on International Women’s Day in 2016.
The newly elected Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus Megan Fearon MLA stated: “It’s so important for our shared future for young women to speak and be heard and today’s event has provided that space. They are the drivers of positive change.”
Deputy Chair of the Women’s Caucus Kellie Armstrong MLA added: “We have been very impressed with all the conversations today. We all have a responsibility to enable and encourage young women to step forward and participate in their communities, public and political life.”