Experience: Speak Up Programme

Posted by Bhavani Esapathi on 19th February 2018

Every year we work with young people to create, mentor and build speechwriting skills that they then get to present at the Houses of Parliament. Here’s a first-hand review of how the programme takes shape through the lens of Hafizah, student and future change-maker who certainly has a lot to speak out about.

Identity. One word which can be defined in so many different ways by many different people. Who am I?

When my grandmother moved to England with her children they faced difficulty and a lot of hatred and racism. From a young age, my family background and British Asian females (including my mother and grandmother) have influenced me. They have shown me that no matter what obstacles I face, they can be overcome. Even in modern day, I’ve always felt indirectly restricted because of my ethnicity, gender and background. My interest in politics grew because of this as I always thought that it played a big part in the community, as it shapes the world in which we live in. I’ve always thought that a fair world could be achieved through politics.

Last summer myself and a group of young people were introduced to mentors who we were told would help us create speeches, which we will perform in Parliament. I thought this was going to be an amazing chance for my voice to be heard and for me to speak about a topic I feel passionately about.

Over the course of six weeks, we’d get an insight on how we could sculpt our speeches. But, most importantly help us build confidence and teach us how to communicate our ideas through voice. I myself struggled with talking in public or any social event because I never quite felt I fit in or I was always nervous of doing something wrong. This is mostly due to the fact that I felt my opinions didn’t matter and also because I didn’t quite know how to communicate my ideas well.

I knew my speech would be about my ethnicity, gender and background identity and the opportunities I am given, and how we should embrace different types of people. The mentors helped me communicate this idea through my speech.

After we had a drafted and produced a final piece, we began to practice speaking in front of an audience. I was dreading having to deliver my speech in front of the group, however, I finally gathered the courage to give it a go. After my first attempt (which could’ve been tons better) I was given feedback. Then in the remaining weeks, I finally felt comfortable with projecting my voice and delivering my speech more fluently and clearly.

The lead up to the Parliament trip was exciting and it was beginning to dawn on me that it was actually happening. I was also slightly nervous as I was going to speak about how my personal experiences have helped me grow as a person to an audience of people I don’t know. The mentors gave us all a pre-pep talk to get us feeling less nervous and more proud about the speeches we’ve produced and were about to give.

On the 26th June I was excited because it was my birthday, but even more excited because it was the day that I was delivering my speech in the very place that I would like to work in someday. The mentors gave us the final pep talk and we left to begin our journey to the city. We were all ready and so prepared to deliver our speeches that we were practicing on the train to the Houses of Parliament.

I was in awe as I was walked about, taking in all the history and the culture of the building. When we made it to the Jubilee room, I met with Meg Hillier and the audience we were about to address. This gave me confidence because I realised my speech could actually influence important people and impact the future.

When delivering my speech, I felt at ease whilst everyone was listening and I felt that each and every word I was saying carried a meaning and I wanted to make sure every person was going through the thoughts and emotions with me.

At the end of my speech I felt overwhelmed but also appreciated by the people around me. I also felt I left a piece of me behind in Parliament and that I had made my first mark on the community.

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