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I lobbied in Parliament: here’s what it’s like…

Alternative title:

The day you realise MPs are human beings too

Ok, now, before anyone assumes anything. No, I’m no one important. Like, at all. What I DO do, though, is fight for things that are bigger than myself, and important.

When I saw the opening to become a ONE Youth Ambassador for the UK, my heart skipped a beat. I’d been following The ONE Campaign’s work to eradicate extreme poverty for a while, and the idea of forming part of a movement I admired so much was (back then) a pipe dream. Fast-forward to this January, and my dream had very much become a reality. I was a ONE Ambassador.

The part of ONE I admire the most is the nature of the campaign. We do not fundraise in the streets, we do not ask taxpayers for that extra pound. Companies that are interested in eradicating poverty give us a helping hand, what ONE does is speak up. We specialise in government relations. We get the public to sign petitions, use their social media and express their concern with messages and letters; in return, we go to Parliament, we contact our regional governments and we get the petition to our Prime Miniter to make sure Parliament invests the taxpayers’ money on issues that actually matter.

This is exactly what I did this past week. I, little miss no-one, went to London, to the launch of ONE’s youth ambassador programme.

Now, besides all the training, all the networking, all the friendship-building, what I am here to write about is the cause we lobbied for: GAVI the vaccine alliance.

Every two minutes a child’s life is saved by taxpayer’s money donated to GAVI, the vaccine alliance. In spite of this, 19.4 million children still have no access to vaccinations. 1.5 million children under 5 die every year from preventable disease. We may save a child every 2 minutes, but another dies every 20 seconds.

The UK is GAVI’s leading funder, donating 25% of its total. Since its launch in 2000, GAVI has saved 13 million lives. We must continue to give this sum, save lives and set an example for other countries. This 25% is only 2.3% of the UK’s budget for foreign aid, which is only 0.7% of the total GDP. This is vital to eradicate poverty because health leads to education, which leads to jobs and development.

We went to the Houses of Parliament to talk to our MPs and convince them to sign a letter urging Boris Johnson to respect this 2.3% and keep donating to GAVI. In spite of Mary Foy, our local MP not answering to any of our emails and tweets, and not turning up, I did get to speak to several other MPs. Don’t worry though, I will get to speak to her at some point.

UNICEF, Results UK, Save the Children and UKMed outside the Houses of Parliament

What was it like?

We often institutionalise MPs. What I mean by this, is, that rather than seeing them as a normal human being, someone you could bump into in the supermarket, we tend to see them as an entity. We criticise them relentlessly without taking into consideration they have feelings and families; we judge them based on outcomes that are often out of their control, we scrutinise their every move. What I realised during my first visit with ONE is that, they are mostly nice, regardless of their party (there is a few exceptions), and are very willing to listen to what students have to say, with many signing our letter and reposting our campaign on social media.

Houses of Parliament is not as depressing a place as I’d foreseen either. A beautiful glass ceiling that allows for natural light makes up for the long work-hours and seriousness of the rooms. There’s a cafeteria in the middle, and the various art-deco portraits of the Queen and former PMs almost distract you from the over-the-top, airport-like security. We queued half an hour to be allowed inside. For our Parliamentary trip we were joined by volunteers and members of staff of UNICEF, Results UK, Global Citizen, Save the Children and UKMed. Needless to say, it was incredible to be surrounded by such a group of inspiring activists and professionals, and the day turned out to be pretty eye-opening.

So where is this article leading to?

First, I want to point out that as a ONE youth ambassador I will be starting campaigns and partnering with other organisations from across the University to raise awareness on extreme poverty. If you want to get involved, know more about it and/or have any questions please do get in touch. This is an issue I’m incredibly passionate about and I’m more than happy to share.

Secondly, support GAVI. Support all the children that aren’t in our privileged society. Where we live shouldn’t determine whether we live. Sign the petition here.

Lastly, remember we are our government’s employers. They may seem unreachable, intimidating, but that is not how it’s supposed to be. A very wise MP told me that we lend them our vote for a period of time because we trust them to voice issues that matter to us as citizens. We choose them to represent us, they are not making us favour.

Marina Mestres-Segarra

Heya! I’m Marina, a Combined Honours 4th year from Grey College. I’m from Barcelona but have a lot of experience living abroad and travelling to random places (which means I know plenty of useless facts). I breathe and bleed coffee, so you’re most likely to find me in town, having some liquid goodness, dancing around or fundraising for charities. If not, check the airport, it’s always a good bet too. Follow me on Instagram @wheretofindmarina
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