sidebar_154Prime Minister David Cameron has said that young people will sow the seeds of the Big Society. But what does this really mean for young people? How can they effect change on the issues that matter to them?

On Wednesday 6 July, the Three Faiths Forum (3FF) brought together sixth-form students from three schools across London – one Muslim and two Christian – for a one-day conference enabling them to make their voices heard and to make a difference in the national debate. Through a combination of workshops and role-play, the students learned how to lobby effectively, speak with confidence at public forums, campaign online and build strong relations with local media.

Tayabbah Iqbal, one of the students at the conference, said young people should get involved and try to make a difference: “It’s important for us to take a stand and make sure we take care of our own future because it is going to affect us.”

Faiza Asadi said it was important to never give up: “If we’re carrying out a campaign we need to stick to it and reach our friends and tell them to reach others, be really passionate about it and keep it going. Even if it’s something difficult and you stumble on the way, just get up and carry on.”

Tayabbah added: “Be persistent. If you believe in something and you show your passion to others, others will believe it too.”

sidebar_153Guest speakers at the conference included David Holmes, media trainer and former BBC producer, and Shelina Janmohamed, author of ‘Love in a Headscarf’, who delivers workshops globally on ‘how to find your voice’ and was named by The Times newspaper as one of the UK’s 100 most influential Muslim women.

It was the third in a series of sixth-form conferences this academic year. The first conference looked at the criminal justice system, the second at individual and collective financial responsibility.

Vandana Jagatta talked about what she had gained through the conferences: “My communication skills have developed by talking to students from the other schools and listening to their points of view.”

Tayabbah said: “We don’t normally have opportunities to talk to people of other faiths or to see their perspectives on things, so it’s nice to talk to others and see that they have similar views, but different views as well.”

She offered some advice for young people who feel they can’t make a difference in society: “Have faith in yourself. There’s courage in you that you probably don’t know you have.”