I am Hailey Townsend, Bridgend County Borough Councillor for Brackla ward and Vice Chair of Brackla Community Council.
I am a single mother to two children, Leya, 9, and Jamie, 4. Currently I also have a full-time role as Bridgend Colleges first ever Sabbatical Student Union President.
I am a very active member of Bridgend County Borough Council; I sit on the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, Equalities Cabinet Committee, Corporate Parenting Cabinet Committee, Town and Community Forum and several other research and evaluation panels.
After being made redundant from my job during my pregnancy with my youngest child I had lost all confidence in myself.
Genesis, a European funded project who helped lone parents claiming income support, was the lifeline I needed to get myself back on track.
I attended several courses provided by the Genesis team along with my son who played with other children in their crèche.
Not only did the course allow me to build my self-confidence, it also gave my son, Jamie, the opportunity to play with children of his own age and develop his own social skills and independence.
At that time I wanted to pursue a career in nursing and the Genesis project enabled me to return to education by covering the costs of my son’s childcare. I started my course in September 2010.
Being the oldest in my class it was a daunting experience, especially as I had been out of education for 10 years. My class voted me in as their Student Academic Representative, a role that was responsible for passing on any issues that may have come up regarding their college experiences.
I soon found myself on the Student College Council representing the Care, Childhood and Education school of study.
Being involved with the student union had taught me the skills to run a successful campaign.
My passion for giving a voice to students did not stop there. I became involved with the National Union of Students and I was amazed to find out about the student unions that existed within other institutions. I wanted Bridgend College to be able to offer the same to their students.
I worked closely with National Union of Students and started to develop the union with support from the college. I stood in an election at the NUS Welsh Conference and I was elected onto the National Executive Committee, which allowed me to give students a voice not only locally in Bridgend but also to every Further Education student within Wales.
I then stood in a UK election to represent FE students on the NUS UK Further Education Committee.
Alongside my college life I had started campaigning for a children’s park in my area due to several letters of complaints with regards to children playing in the street from our housing association.
Being involved with the student union had taught me the skills to run a successful campaign and by doing this got me involved with the local councillors.
I became a member of a political party and stood for selection within the party to run in the up and coming local elections. I was successful and I started to campaign for my election within my home community of Brackla.
I continued with my studies and student union work. I was excited about being involved with politics and making a difference to other people’s lives by giving them a voice.
The 3rd of May 2012 was one of the best days of my life and probably one of the most stressful. I stood in 3 elections: for Bridgend County Borough Council, Brackla Community Council and Sabbatical Officer for Bridgend College Student Union.
I somehow managed to get elected into all three! I became the youngest ever female councillor for BCBC and the second Sabbatical President in FE in Wales.
My role in local government has not always been plain sailing.
I encountered a lot of unwanted media attention over reporting a male councillor for sexism. I stand by my decision as I believe women have a place to play within our democracy and deserve to be treated equally as politicians striving to do their best for their community.
I never set out to go into politics but this is the way my life took me. I had incredible support from the party I was standing for and from my family. I guess you can say I am not your typical politician as I am a woman, under 30, a single mum and my home belongs to a social landlord.
To me, none of those things matter. I have lived through good and bad times and I know what it is like to live in the real world. I am passionate about making my community a better place to live, work and socialise in and this is the driving force which keeps me going.
I am ambitious and I love local government but my aim is to progress on the political ladder; someday I will be in the Welsh Government representing my community and country.
Politics is so far away from being representative of our society and we need more women to stand, whether it’s for their community council or as an MP.
If you’re thinking of standing for your community, the biggest tip I can give you would be to start volunteering in your community and speaking to people.
Get to know the people you want to represent and if you find out there is a need for a facility, start getting support from the community to back you and talk to your elected representatives about it.
The more you can say you have proactively done before the election, the more voters will put their trust in you.
Follow Hailey on Twitter: @cariad07.
This article relates to News item: More women need to get engaged – Parliament Week 2013.