Fri 14th Sep 2007
Voting is an integral part of our democracy. It is our way of asserting ourselves and standing up for what we need and believe in. Voting is the one crucial activity where you can affect the direction St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) takes. The importance of voting is understated; its existence is taken for granted in our country.
Young people not in school, but under 18, are in limbo. They are free to do as they wish, but not free to influence the system within which they must live. When young people leave school and the opportunities they want are not available, they have to wait until they are 18 before they can actively change the system. They should not have to wait - the power to vote should be given at 16.
The Suffragettes, headed by Emmeline Pankhurst, campaigned for the right for women to vote in Britain in the early 1900s. One of them was killed when she threw herself under the King's horses in the Epsom derby in 1913. Women finally got the vote in England in July 1928. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. He campaigned for the right of Indian people to vote and rule themselves in India. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison fighting for the right for black people to vote in South Africa. Released from prison in 1990, it was only in 1994 that he first voted in a general election in South Africa.
These people have shown that being able to vote empowers you to influence your future. In South Africa, the majority of black people were always destined to live in poverty when they were unable to vote. Now they can vote, black people have greater opportunities to improve their education and income level. The same applies to young people in SVG, the majority will always be destined to live in poverty as long as they are oppressed with being unable to vote at 16.
For over 10 years the National Youth Council has been calling for the setting up of a youth parliament. SVG Green party fully supports the philosophy that young people should have a bigger say in the management of the affairs of SVG. We strongly believe that lowering the voting age to 16 would empower our youth and have a positive impact upon their lives.
The ULP regime has done little to uplift the social, economic and financial wellbeing of young people. The ULP regime has failed to lift the economy out of stagnation and their inability is jeopardising young peoples' long-term life opportunities. It's destroying young peoples' hopes and dreams. With the voting age at sixteen young people are empowered to vote for a capable government that can help them achieve their aspirations and dreams.
The visionary SVG Green party feels that it would be an historic stand to take the lead in SVG and reduce the voting age to 16 years. We hope common sense and reason prevail and there is not a struggle for young people to gain the right to vote at age 16.