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Welsh election 2021: Why 16-year-olds like me must vote

Lleucu Wiliam turns 16 on polling day and can’t wait to cast her ballot
Lleucu Wiliam turns 16 on polling day and can’t wait to cast her ballot in the Welsh 2021 elections. Image: The Big Issue

Hello, I’m Lleucu and I am a former member of the Welsh Youth Parliament. I am currently studying for my GCSE exams and will turn 16 on May 6, which is the day of the Senedd elections. I will therefore be able to cast my first-ever vote on my birthday!

It was rewarding to have experienced the debates surrounding Vote 16 during my time in the Welsh Youth Parliament. I felt privileged to be a part of the discussion with people who have worked so hard to achieve voting rights for 16 and 17-year-olds. It’s also satisfying to see this become a reality.

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There has been a surge in support for many social issues recently. This has been evident during the lockdown period with young people attending online debates and campaigns and prior to lockdown, attending climate strikes and marches worldwide.

Politics is all about changing our lives. With access to knowledge at our fingertips and with world leaders and those with influence being only a keystroke away, young people are in a unique position to make a mark on issues that affect them and to become involved in the world of politics. 

There’s been a massive rise in support for Welsh independence recently, with polls showing a majority of young people in favour for the first time

This is a crucial step forward, showing the difference that we can make as a generation with the right support and the drive to do something about issues that matter to us. 

The additional interest has been in matters that are now at a tipping point and relevant to core values, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, poverty and the future of the planet

There’s been a massive rise in support for Welsh independence recently, with polls showing a majority of young people in favour for the first time. 

Lockdown has highlighted the differences between the nations of the UK and how the priorities placed by various governments on welfare versus economy have had different outcomes. It’s highlighted the implications of decisions made by a centralised government based in Westminster.

The world post-pandemic may never return to what it was, but we may also want to take this chance to make lasting changes.

It’s important that we vote in large numbers to make our voices heard

Investing in renewable energy in Wales is essential, but currently the Senedd is prevented by Westminster from making any significant decisions regarding energy production. Mental health provision has been a huge issue for young people in Wales during the pandemic and will remain so afterwards. Money will also be a factor here.

At the moment we have to rely on finance being handed down from Westminster, which gives limited scope to enable real change and shape the sort of society in which we wish to live. 

If the young people of Wales want a chance to shape their future instead of having it dictated to them by baby boomers, then it’s important that we vote in large numbers to make our voices heard. 

It is only then that we can make Wales the society that we hope it could be.