Pam (28): ‘It’s time for young people to speak up’

Pam (28): ‘It’s time for young people to speak up’

The municipal elections are approaching. Because many young people are also competing for a seat on the City Council, we would like to introduce four young candidates to you. Today, we present Pam Wijnans (28), part-time Master’s student in Clinical Psychology at Tilburg University. In these elections, she is in second place on the list of the de Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals) in Tilburg.

Pam Wijnans, candidate City Council member for the Partij voor de Dieren in Tilburg. Image Ton Toemen

As founder of the Vegan Student Association Tilburg, Pam took her first steps in Tilburg’s public life of. She was eager to learn more, and the City Council seemed the logical next step. She wanted to represent the Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD) because of their values that she feels so connected to. On the off chance, she applied for the position last year. The outcome was something she had hoped for but hadn’t counted on: she was allocated second place on the list.

Hi Pam, why do you want to enter the Tilburg City Council?

“To be honest, I never really had ambitions to do anything with politics. It wasn’t in my area of interest. But because of the coronavirus crisis, I feel that politics suddenly became much more accessible, especially to younger generations. Political policy was suddenly in your face, everyone got to deal with it. Politics has since become more prevalent among both young people in general and me personally. That combined with my vegan lifestyle and the views of the PvdD that aligned with it, made me want to take the plunge.

“Then I applied to a real interview committee. This application consisted of several rounds and proceeded quite securely. Among other things, I had to submit a motion, something I had zero experience with, and which, therefore, caused quite a bit of tension. After months of waiting, I heard to my great surprise that I was number two. That’s quite a difference from the fifteenth place, where you mainly participate passively. Now I really had to get going. Since then, we have had weekly meetings with the top seven of our list to discuss our campaign plans.”

A recent study (Dutch only) from research firm Overheid in Nederland found that barely seven percent of the approximately 8,500 council members are under the age of 30. That is remarkably low. Why are young people important in local politics?

“It’s important for young people to get involved because sooner or later you have to deal with local politics. As a student, you are kind of in a bubble and you don’t really realize what politics is all about yet—until you finish college and have to look for housing.

“In addition, politics should be about the long term. This is unfortunately not always the case; many parties focus only on the next four years. That’s too short-sighted because you can’t guarantee a future for the next generations this way. With our planet-wide vision, we believe you should look further ahead. The voice of young people is very much needed because it is about their future.

“Right now, we experience multiple crises: the climate crisis, the coronavirus crisis, the biodiversity crisis, the nitrogen crisis, and the housing crisis. All of them (especially) affect the world of young people, which causes them to feel more pressure compared to other generations. So, it’s time for young people to speak up now and do things differently. I believe we are in one of those tipping points when that is actually possible.

“The fact that local politics has aged considerably has to do with the fact that people only get in when they have time to spare. That is why so many pensioners are active; for them it is a nice sideline. Understandable, but unfortunately this does not create a 1-on-1 reflection of society. This is necessary, because someone from the 50Plus party has no idea what a nineteen-year-old student wants. This also applies the other way around, by the way.”

What themes are particularly close to your heart?

“As a party we stand for people, animals, and the environment. Of course, this does not mean that we only care about ants or are a one-issue party as we are so often accused of being. On the contrary, with thirty-four pages we have the most extensive program of all the Tilburg parties.

“Personally, I am taking up the animal welfare dossier. One of the things we advocate in that context is a so-called Animal Welfare Memorandum. This is a kind of manual for how to deal with each type of animal in different situations. Suppose you are going to build something in town in a place with a tree with a squirrel’s nest, the Memo will tell you what you can and cannot do. During a first round of meetings with the old Council we already noticed that there is a need for this. The only is, so far, no one is presenting it, so that will be our job.” 

How do you combine politics with your studies?

“I am a flexible student, which means that I decide which courses I take and when, in close consultation with the education coordinator. This gives me a lot of space and enough time for other things like the Vegan Student Association and my political ambitions. Although I have to say that, during this campaign period, I don’t go to lectures at all anymore. I am simply too busy for that.

“If I get on the City Council, I’m going to try to finish my Master’s in the meantime, though. If that doesn’t work out, that’s no problem. The credits remain valid, and there is no question of time pressure for me.”

What personal challenges do you see ahead of you?

“Because many parties are not so familiar with our themes yet, there is a lot for us to talk about. That’s why I sometimes have to make sure that, in all my fervor, I don’t contribute too much at once during debates. Instead of trying to out-argue my opponents, I should take more time to calmly make my point. In that way, I think my point comes across best, and there is a better chance of me convincing the other person.”

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