Election 2015 England

Election 2015: First time female voters visit Pankhurst Centre

Sixth formers in the parlour at the Pankhurst Centre
Image caption Students from Whalley Range Sixth Form College in Manchester visited the Pankhurst Centre

The former home of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, now a museum and community centre, has been at the centre of a push to encourage people to vote on Thursday.

The Pankhurst Centre in Chorlton-on-Medlock sits in the Manchester Central constituency, where turnout was the lowest in Britain at the last general election.

Just 44.3% of the electorate voted, compared to a national figure of 65.1%.

The suffragettes would be happy that the victor in the 2012 by-election for the seat was a woman but with only 39% of women aged 18-24 voting nationally in 2010, they might feel there is still work to be done.

A group of first time voters from Whalley Range Sixth Form College in Manchester visited the centre and spoke about why they will be heading to the polling booth.


Why I am voting

Ayesha Zaheer, 18, A-level student

"Women fought a lot in the past for the right to vote and I think that women should make the most of the vote. I was going to vote anyway but coming here today I am even more determined to vote.

As youngsters we can think that we are really distant from politics because we're more into education and not into wider society. We're not well integrated into society.

Nadia Imtiaz, 18, A-level student

Many people of my generation are turned off by politics - they think it is not really cool to know what is going on.

But there is a rising trend of people who think it is cool to listen to the news.

At our sixth form I say it is 50/50 whether girls will vote.

Marwa Fatima, 18, A-level student

I am totally sure I will be voting. Women like the suffragettes have worked really hard and sacrificed so much - now that we have the right why don't we make use of it.

Some girls of our age are more into their own things, make up, beauty technology, phones. They ignore this side of the world they turn their backs on it and they think it's a thing for elderly people.

I need to know about the government and know it will affect me. With such things as university fees I will have to pay £21,000 fees at the end of my university life and that is quite a lot of money and something I am totally against.

Rowan Mohamed, 18, A-level student

I am voting. I knew about the suffragettes before I came to the Pankhurst Centre but I didn't know the centre actually existed. People should be more aware of its whereabouts.

We're the future generation and we don't want the next generation to be like the past. I know people of my generation find it annoying that all of the politicians are from schools that are like Eton. We just want someone normal of our age.

Romona Mullings, 18, A-level student

You have to vote just to be able to have an impact on the government.

By not voting you are saying you don't want to have an impact on society. Make the most of it now you have the chance.

People tend not to vote at our age because they don't see how much it impacts on them but if they were made more aware of how it impacts on them I think they would vote.


Rachel Lappin, Pankhurst Centre manager

"If young women watch Prime Minister's Questions what do they see? A group of men, shouting at each other, making strange noises, grunting away for half an hour.

"What do young women feel is relevant to them in that?

I think that politicians are just not engaged - young women don't feel that there is anything they can give them.

What I would say to young women is, that only if you vote will change happen. I don't blame them.

People say to me 'do you feel frustrated when people don't vote?'

A little bit, but maybe politicians have to look at why people are not voting. Ultimately if we don't vote we don't have a voice. It is important; unless they vote things won't change.

I think the leaders debate where Ed Miliband was outnumbered (by women) was really important but what was really important was the way the females performed in that debate, they were absolutely superb.

The way the women handled themselves and behaved was so much better than the males. If we can just get a higher proportion of females in parliament it would be so much healthier for the democratic system.

The young women who are here are 18. Hopefully the fact they are voting on 7 May means they will remember this as this place [the Pankhurst Centre] as where it all started it where the suffragette movement began.

Hopefully it will inspire these young women even if they are disillusioned and thinking politicians are all the same.

Hopefully they will remember this is where it all began and where those women made all those massive sacrifices from and it is really important to just vote.


Who was Emmeline Pankhurst?

Image copyright PA
  • Born in Manchester 1858, she helped found the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPUI) in 1903
  • As leader of the WSPU she championed the cause of votes for women and was jailed three times in 1908-09. She once issued a leaflet calling on people to "rush the House of Commons"
  • In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died on 14 June 1928, shortly after women were granted equal voting rights with men (at 21)

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