In a couple of weeks' time, 46 million people in the UK will have an opportunity to vote in a general election.
1 in 4 of us won’t even make it to the ballot box.
But 3 in 4 will vote - that’s about 31 million people all taking part in a communal activity on one day. Are you one of them?
I’m not allowed to talk politics in the run up to any election. And it’s not really the place of charities to prompt you to vote one way or another. And even if I could – would I change your mind? Probably not.
What I find energising is that, for one day, so many people care about the society they live in. They are considering all the issues…the economy, health service, immigration, overseas aid.
If only we could get the same amount of people to more regularly care about the wider world around them.
Part of the problem is that local activity is decided at a local level and to take part in this requires a different kind of commitment. It requires you to go to regular meetings and discuss issues that may not be your priority or listen to members of your community who have views that oppose yours. It will require you to compromise and look at the long-term plan for your community. But in the end, it builds communities through local people deciding on their own priorities.
This slow process is how many communities across the world are building a better future for themselves. From Bangalore to Bristol a very similar process is happening.
At FRANK Water, we support communities in India to be democratic in this way. Encouraging people to take their issues to the local meetings and hold their local politicians to account. In our case, water and sanitation is the issue, and we are having a sizeable impact with 300,000 people supported to get access to water In 208 communities across India so far.
What’s this got to do with you?
Well, here’s three questions to see how engaged you are and whether you should perhaps think about getting more involved and using your voice:
1. What’s the name of your local MP?
2. Have you ever been to a Neighbourhood Partnership meeting in your area?
3. Have you ever volunteered your time for a cause you care about?
If the answer to the last question was yes, you are part of the 44% of British people who volunteered at least once last year. That’s 15.2 million people contributing to making the world a better place.
By 2015, the UK government will have helped 60 million people gain access to water and sanitation. This year the UK promised, in law, to provide 0.7% of national income to overseas aid. Both of these things have happened because people expressed a desire for them – they used their voice.
But there’s still more to shout about, UNICEF recently commented that “almost half of the developing word’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources.”
Whatever party you like – use your vote, use your voice.