Voting is now open for the Young Mayor elections in Tower Hamlets, which has a record number of young female candidates running this year. The candidates encourage fellow 11 to 17 year olds to vote online after they receive their polling cards at school.
Young people will receive a polling card from their school which has a unique code and a full set of instructions on how they can vote. After they have received these polling cards pupils can then view the 15 candidates online where they can cast their vote.
Voting will end on Sunday; the results will be announced on Wednesday 13 at the Town Hall Grocers Wing from 5pm to 9pm.
The young mayor process helps to represent the opinions of young people in the borough and give them a platform to levy concerns they have. The project encourages young people to get involved in the political process and understand how decisions are made at a local level.
Through the single transferable voting system the votes will elect a cabinet, where each deputy will have a cabinet position for example; the youth voice, environment, community safety, etc. The appropriate deputy will then be invited to attend committee meetings at the council related to their cabinet position.
Aksary Rahman, a peer Education Worker at Tower Hamlets council helping to organise this year’s election said: “We have a record number of young women who have been chosen this year. They have all displayed tremendous drive and passion and felt they had much to offer to the young people of Tower Hamlets.”, 10 of the 15 candidates running this year are female.
Two of the candidates Amaira Katyal, 13 of Limehouse, and Noor Mohammed Miah, 16 of Bow, said that being involved in the process has improved their confidence. Mohammed Miah, said his self-confidence has grown and the process has brought him ‘out of his shell’. Katyal said, “the amount of public speaking that I’ve had done this month has really increased my confidence”.
Mohammed Miah said that although many people may want to know more about politics, they wouldn’t know where to find that information, he said his ‘friends don’t even know what the mayor’s name is’.
Katyal said her friends had encouraged her to go for the position. She explained that her manifesto targeted issues that her and her friends had experienced.
Amaira put forth her three key manifesto pledges, firstly she details that she would organise a skill management programme, so that pupils can have the space to explore ‘whatever their heart desires’.
Her second pledge was to work with an organisation that could help implement self-defence workshops which would ‘be run in schools and during summer holidays’.
Her final pledge was to work with an organisation that could increase sexual and mental health advice for youths, so that they have somewhere to get support.
The programme allows candidates to meet other youths from outside of their area, Katyal said “I met such great young people at our youth centres, I made so many new friends in so many different schools”.
When asked about if she enjoyed the experience of campaigning, Katyal said she had stood by advice the current young mayor had given her earlier in the process. He told her to “stay original and authentic because people know when you’re speaking from the heart” she said “that advice has helped me a lot”.
Her mother, Archana Katyal, said that her daughter has taught her a lot about the political system and that she was shy before She is proud that her daughter has gained the ‘power of speaking and advocating for what is right’.
Mohammed Miah said his involvement with the young mayor process has changed him for the better. He said, “I was someone who stayed indoors and didn’t really make friends out with school, but now I’m going out, going new places, and meeting new people”.
He listed his top three pledges, his first was to bring youth centres indoors and into schools to give young people a safe place to help their mental health.
His second pledge was to bring back ‘summer university’ and his third pledge was to bring first aid experience to younger people. He said, “there is a lot of stabbings and crime happening in tower hamlets, if a young person had first aid knowledge this could save a life”.
The current young mayor’s advice to Mohammed Miah, was that he shouldn’t be too concerned with engagement on social media. He said: “it’s not a popularity contest it’s about the votes and getting your campaign out there and getting people to listen to you”.