17-year-old Gants Hill student debates how coalition government’s policies affect women

A 17-year-old Gants Hill student joined a Liberal Democrat peer, a charity leader and other influential figures to debate how the government’s policies affect women.

Mehjabin Ahmed, who goes to Woodford County High School, described her appearance on a panel including Baroness Shirley Williams and Pragna Patel, the founding member of Southall Black Sisters, as “such a privileged moment in my life”.

Ms Ahmed was chosen from British Youth Council members across the country to be their representative at the debate, organised by The Guardian newspaper and held at their Kings Cross’ office.

The debate was prompted by Prime Minister David Cameron’s appointment of Laura Trott, currently the chief of staff to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, as his advisor on how the coalition’s policies affect women. The panel, who met last Friday, also included Jackie Long, the social affairs editor for Channel 4 news, and Penelope Curtis, the director of Tate Britain.

After preparing with her politics class, Ms Ahmed, who was put forward by Redbridge Council’s youth services, went to raise issues of tuition fees and concerns over employment opportunities.

And she went head-to-head with Dame Williams over the usefulness of apprenticeships for women.

Ms Ahmed said: “Most of those are traditionally technical types of training and are male dominated.

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“She [Mrs Williams] said she disagreed with me saying that more women should try this type of training.

“It wasn’t intimidating at all. All of the panel members were very encouraging.

“It’s not every day that you get to meet such influential women.”

Regarding Mr Cameron’s appointment, she said: “If the Prime Minister wants to improve women’s lives for the better and give them a voice at least he is taking steps in the right direction.

“I do think a lot more needs to be done though.”