Women Political Leaders (WPL), a global network of female politicians, teamed up with Western Union, a leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement, to encourage more girls to get involved in politics, with the goal of increasing female representation in political and governmental roles and driving greater diversity of thinking in policy making and governance.
Emma Young is one of just 20 women selected by G(irls)20 -- an organization that places girls and women at the center of the G20 economic decision-making process -- to be sponsored by Western Union to attend the Women Political Leaders Summit, the foremost gathering of female political leaders in the world. This year’s summit took place in Lithuania, June 6-8.
By Emma Young
Before I went to the WPL conference in Lithuania, I was passionate about policy but never thought I was “right” for the direct political process. I thought I would have to face compromises of my values, endless criticism and not being able to affect substantive change.
What brought me to the conference in the first place is that I am very involved in youth engagement in politics. I am a board member of the European Youth Parliament. We run simulations of the European Parliament that draws in up to 500 students a year.
I got involved in youth engagement politics because I sometimes feel that while Ireland is a developed country, we often fail to meet up with our ideals because in some ways we are still quite archaic and bureaucratic. For example, Ireland’s way of dealing with asylum seekers is so backwards. We let them into the country but don’t let them work. Instead, we give them terrible temporary accommodations., known as direct provision but, the asylum process can last more than 10 years, so kids are growing up in these temporary houses and their parents can’t use their skills.
I still think that organizing young people is important, but the conference gave me a renewed sense of optimism about how the parliamentary process can be used to affect beneficial change.
Seeing how the work of women politicians from across the world has affected worthwhile change in their home countries has definitely made me reconsider whether it is just self-doubt holding me back from a successful political career.
Two Irish female politicians, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Fiona O’Loughlin, who represent the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, were particularly inspiring. Despite representing very different parties, they united on the issue of women’s empowerment. When I attend the International Congress of Parliamentary Women’s Caucuses in Dublin Castle later this year, I hope to be able to work further with Marcella and Fiona to advance the issue of young women participating in politics.
In addition, learning the structures of the political process has given me the knowledge and drive to spearhead a parliamentary initiative aimed at encouraging young women to enter Irish politics. We have some amazing female role models in our parliament and it would be such a positive catalyst for young women to meet them and be encouraged to pursue a career in the legislature.
Finally, the warmth and generosity that I and the rest of the young women participants experienced at the Summit was like nothing I have ever encountered. The leaders at the Summit all have distinguished and influential careers, yet they thought nothing of handing out business cards and offering mentorship and support to the young women. I really hope that when I reach a point in my career where I can give back that I can provide the same enthusiasm and inspiration to girls who need it!