Today marks a day of great change in Politics. 16 and 17 year olds in Wales have been granted the right to vote in the upcoming Senedd election, which is planned to be held on May 6th 2021.

The Senedd election will decide on the 60 elected members of Senedd Cymru, Welsh parliament. It is responsible for issues surrounding health, education and transport.

The election comes at a very interesting and trying time for the government, with all eyes on them and their responses in dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19. The impact COVID-19 has had on the health, education and transport sectors will need to be considered carefully by those vying for power.

The Electoral Reform System (ERS) labelled the news: “A victory for young people.” It came about from extensive campaigning from both ERS Cymru and youth and civil society campaigners.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association argued that the inclusion of young people in the election was particularly important because:

“A thriving local government depends on residents from all backgrounds feeling engaged with their local councils.”

As young people are gaining more independence and seeking employment, it is “important that [they] have their say on who represents their community.”

The announcement comes after Scottish parliament’s decision to allow 16 and 17 years olds to vote in Holyrod and local elections in 2015.

A survey commissioned by the ERS after the Scottish Independence Referendum, where 16 and 17 year olds could vote, discovered that 75% in this age group participated. It implies that a similarly high turnout rate will occur for those of the same age in the 2020 Senedd election.

The news has increased pressure on Westminister to follow suit. In England, it is apparent that there is a divide between younger and older voters. Younger voters are often referred to as “open” voters and older, “closed,” to reflect younger people’s more open attitude to factors such as immigration: a factor that was divisive in the 2016 EU Referendum, according to the Think Tank, Global Future. So, the inclusion of younger voters in elections can have a significant impact on election results.

A petition has even been started to pave the way for 16 and 17 year olds to have their say in Westminister elections. Please access and sign it HERE if you want to have your voice heard in future elections. I certainly will, as a Political Communication student.

AUTHOR: Danielle Desouza

I am a 21 year old Politics and Communication Masters student at LSE, makeshift musician and aspiring political broadcaster. I am a staunch supporter of both gender and racial equality, being female and Indian. I want to edge closer to this goal daily by bringing to light injustices, through all forms of journalism.


Each year, around 10 million girls worldwide become underage brides. In 2015, Malawi’s parliament passed a bill making the minimum age of marriage 18. Yet child marriage is still happening. There are several reasons for this.

First, many families in Malawi are living in poverty, which results in parents marrying off their daughters to receive inheritance through the groom’s side of the family. Second, in Malawi, social interaction and behaviour are grounded in tradition, which favours the male gender. Third, a lack of education can lead to laws being broken.

These three factors make the problem severe in Malawi. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 46% of Malawian girls are married by 18 and leave school before year 9 at the age of 13, mostly due to early marriage and teen pregnancy. Parents withdraw their girls from schools to enter marriages that will benefit the elders in the family.

In a bid to change this state of affairs, Miss Theresa Kachindamoto has built large intelligence networks of female informers, known as ‘The Mothers Group,’ who discreetly monitor local activities across the villages. Miss Kachindamoto is a tribal ruler of the Dedza District in central Malawi, and the name ‘Kachindamoto’ means ‘don’t mess with fire.’ This fits perfectly with her mission, which is to empower girls in a country where almost one in two girls have an arranged marriage before the age of eighteen.

The Mothers Group is pivotal in protecting young girls, through monitoring people’s behaviour and activities in the village, reducing the risk of young girls being forced into arranged marriages. Additionally, she has fired male sub-chiefs who refused to ban child marriages and who were found to be corrupt (accepting gifts from parents in exchange for allowing their young daughters to marry).

So far, Miss Kachindamoto has terminated 3,500 child bride marriages. Due to her brave work, she has allowed these girls to finish their education and live safely in their communities.

Despite her success in shifting mindsets, Miss Kachindamoto is still opposed by some elders, who think she is disrupting the traditional view of life in Malawi. In an interview with BBC Africa, Miss Kachindamoto highlighted the importance of education, stating: “If you educate a girl, you educate the whole area … and you will have everything in the future.” This is a powerful message, reinforcing what humanitarians have discovered the world over that educating girls is the key to tackling injustice and improving the lives of everyone in the community. Miss Kachindamoto certainly lives by the meaning of her name — Don’t mess with fire — and is an incredible role model for girls across the globe.

AUTHOR: Monique Henry Washington

My name is Monique Henry. I am a 21 year old passionate and energetic film scholar, who aims to enhance my digital and communication skills, whilst working with other creatives. Producing and directing are my main passions. I love seeing how a project flourishes from the thought of a single idea to a final product.

We have been told that the virus does not discriminate. Everyone is at risk; no one is immune. But as more voices emerge from the struggle, we see that the socio-economic strain is not the same. Especially for sex workers. The UK government has introduced packages to protect workers, from employees to the self-employed, but the nature of the sex industry makes qualifying for these schemes challenging.

The experience of an individual who can continue working remotely, with access to sick pay, is incomparable to the experience of a sex worker. In the UK alone, there are an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 sex workers, and even more who are unaccounted for. Sex work in the UK may not be illegal, but it is criminalised, stigmatised and overlooked.

The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) estimates 70% of sex workers are mothers. Most of them single. The majority of these workers turn to this industry due to marginalisation and discrimination. They could be LGBTQ workers, disabled, people of colour, migrants or single mothers. Following 10 years of austerity in the UK, cuts in necessary benefits and arising inequalities, sex workers have been driven towards the industry for survival.

This was all before COVID-19.

The systematic structures of our society have meant that marginalised groups have a heavier load to carry. Sex work is incompatible with social distancing, let alone a full-scale lockdown. Many workers rely on consistent clients for their income. Living from pay cheque to pay cheque has meant that the sudden drop in customers has left thousands vulnerable. Many lack the safety cushion of savings, leaving them with close to nothing.

COVID-19 is exacerbating the inequalities worldwide and sex workers find themselves at the lower end of the scale. As the industry is informal, despite the legality, workers cannot easily access Universal Credit or self-employment schemes with HMRC. Not to mention the undocumented individuals who are automatically ineligible. Sex workers will find themselves excluded from the safety net. Devastatingly, the most vulnerable groups who need the most support are the ones who are excluded.

Some sex workers may have taken the opportunity to virtualise their services through online platforms. But online work is less reliable. They may lack computer devices, professional equipment or simply have no privacy – especially since everyone is at home. It may be an option, but not for many.

Without any form of work, sex workers are unable to provide for themselves or their families. They face poverty or homelessness, or else their lives to continue working. Sex workers around Europe have admitted to breaking isolation to book clients as the state has left them no other options.

The Sex Workers Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) have recognised the imminent need for support. With reportedly 900+ applications since 16th March 2020, their hardship fund aims to provide mutual aid to sex workers in the UK in severe financial hardship. To protect their community, they are asking for support. The grant provides payments of £200 to UK sex workers with no savings to fall back on. But this should not absolve the government of responsibility.

This pandemic has exacerbated the disparities in wealth, income and Sadly, the sex work community fears an inevitable spike in depression, anxiety and suicide because of COVID-19. Statistically, individuals who experience financial hardship are more likely to suffer with mental health issues. The resilience of sex workers and their community is admirable, but there is more to be done. Decriminalisation should be advocated, and sex workers should be recognised as employees who are entitled to financial aid. They are human too.

Donate HERE for the SWARM hardship fund.

AUTHOR: Dila Yalman

Dila is an Intern at GGM UK. She is an aspiring journalist and currently studies Economics at the University of Edinburgh.

Dila writes and edits for her university's Economics Magazine, as well as for a start-up fashion magazine. She also regularly writes pieces ranging from academic critiques to political reports for her blog. Most of her writing reflects what she has personally encountered and tells the story of real people.

Dila is seeking to assert her journalistic voice while providing a voice for those who do not have one and this is what she aims to gain from her experience at GGM UK.


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