EMMA HOLLINGWORTH: Elect to vote and celebrate democracy – a freedom we sometimes take for granted

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One of my most abiding memories as a child is queuing in line with my mother as she waited to vote.

She was determined to make sure that my brother and I understood the importance of the right to be able to vote. “Many women died to make sure women like me could get the vote,” she dramatically told us.

As I watched my mother carefully mark her ballot paper in my child-like brain I was left with visions of women meeting a sticky end just for trying to put a cross on a piece of paper with a pencil. It was only years later that I realised they deliberately caused their own deaths by going on hunger-strikes after being jailed for their feminist campaigning.

The local council elections are now just around the corner and my eldest daughter has been intrigued. She has seen posters brandishing the words ‘Use it or lose it’ – urging the public to take part in next week’s voting.

And so last week I found myself telling her the very same story my mother told me – how women lost their lives in order to make sure future generations of women like her and I could have that democratic right.

However the idea that women were once not equal to men is something she can’t quite believe. “But why would just being a girl mean you could not decide who would be Prime Minister?” she asked.

And there really is no explanation to give her for this injustice. “Because women were only deemed good enough to have children,” does seem such a pathetic reason in a modern world.

The only thing I can equate it to for her is the current uprising in the Middle East and North Africa that she is sort of aware of at the moment. When she asks why all these people she sees on the TV all seem so angry I replied this is because they do not have the right to be able to say who rules their country.

The reality, though, in next week’s elections is that probably only 30 per cent of people in this country will actually bother to vote.

Democracy is something most of us have the luxury of being able to take for granted, as we live in a politically stable country. Unrest is something you only read about in history books.

For me it was a big thing when I turned 18 and had the right to vote. The first ever elections I was eligible to vote in were local council elections. I remember being really proud as I carefully filled in my ballot paper and posted it into the slot in the box. And I still get the same feeling whenever I vote.

Sheffield City Council is urging people to remember to vote by post if they have chosen to do so. Postal voting packs are now dropping through voters’ letter boxes for the local elections and referendum on the UK’s Parliamentary voting system being held on Thursday, May 5.

If you have a query about your postal vote or the local elections, then call Sheffield City Council’s elections helpline: 0114 273 4093.

The results will be announced on Friday, May 6, and will be available on the council’s website – www.sheffield.gov.uk/elections