Women’s suffrage: Hackney’s newly appointed ‘young speaker’ champions Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett

Rose Ilunga was chosen to be young speaker of Hackney earlier this year. Photo by Hackney Council

Rose Ilunga was chosen to be young speaker of Hackney earlier this year. Photo by Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Hackney’s newly-appointed “young speaker” is determined to follow in the footsteps of the Suffragettes by championing the rights of women.

Rose Ilunga, who was elected to the Hackney Council role in January, used her acceptance speech to pay homage to the work of Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett.

The pair were icons of the Suffragette movement, and have been thrust further into the limelight this week as we celebrate 100 years since the first women won the right to vote.

Rose, who attends Mossbourne Academy, told the Gazette she finds these women “truly inspiring” today.

The 16-year-old said: “Despite women seeming to be quite weak in society, Pankhurst proved women to be physically and mentally strong. She often committed acts out of the norm to bring attention to the fact women did not to have a voice in society in this time.

“Fawcett followed institutional methods and used her somewhat small voice to make a big change – which I find truly inspiring.”

Despite her self-confidence, Rose stressed that it is often not easy for young women growing up in Hackney to find an identity.

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“I have struggled personally to find who I am because I sometimes doubted my abilities as a young black woman,” she said.

“Not only this but I feel among the young women there are countless insecurities and flaws that they may have physically, mentally and even emotionally.

“I have always wanted to challenge body stereotypes and help young women feel comfortable in their own skin again.”

Rose, who is inspired by both her mother and former American first lady Michelle Obama, sees her role with the council as key to achieving her aims.

“I intend to use my voice as young speaker to reignite the determination and drive of the Suffragettes,” she said. “I believe being a young speaker will help me to lead young women on a journey of acceptance.”