Stop and listen to young women’s voices

Friday 7 February 2014

On Channel 5’s ‘Big Benefits Row’ on Monday night Edwina Currie refused to listen as blogger Jack Monroe sought to put the record straight on the challenges of poverty. When stories appear online about young women struggling to get by, comments left by readers often show a completely lack of understanding about the real story of poverty. As Jack says in her own blog it can be: “Distressing. Depressing. Destabilising.”

But this lack of understanding doesn’t just stop at criticism on TV or online. It instead feeds into the decisions politicians make about those people in poverty. When David Cameron can accuse young people of “choosing the dole” or Ed Miliband can talk about those ‘idle on benefits’, it is clear that critical choices about how to tackle poverty are being made with little understanding about the people it affects.

Policy that will have a real impact will only come about when there is a real understanding about the issues at hand. That means speaking to people affected by those issues. That’s why it was refreshing to see BBC4 show ‘These Four Walls’ on Sunday night. The programme followed five stories of people in some of the most deprived parts of Britain struggling to make ends meet. Amongst them was Charlotte, a young single parent who despite her current difficulties still has the aspiration and determination to get on.

So often young women like Charlotte are not given the opportunity to speak out about their frustrations, difficulties and hopes for the future. They are not heard in the debate about the decisions that have a huge impact on their lives or asked what would help them realise their ambitions. That’s why Young Women’s Trust is committed to engaging young women in the activity and development of or work. Our Advisory Panel helps us to shape the work we do. We hope that by listening to young women and helping to get their views heard we can start to shift the debate away from blaming young women for their difficulties towards one that offers real hope and opportunities. If you are a young woman aged 16-30 and want to be involved, or know someone who is, we would love to hear from you.

To find out more about our Advisory Panel please get in touch through our website.