If you could change one thing in Britain – be the person to make a difference in government policy and help girls and women of the nation – what would it be?

That was the question put to young women like Chloe Hill and Sofia Grebenkina, two of the winners of our “Speak Out” competition.

It was a competition that sought to get at the heart of what young women and girls think about Britain and how they would influence government policy to make this country better. We wanted to give girls and young women a chance to #SpeakOut in a forum where their voices wouldn’t be drowned out by the hubbub of national debate – often held far away from those it affects most.

What has been the result? An impressive flood of ideas and a gritty, clear and firm statement from women all over the country; women and girls that we knew were out there and had so much to say about the world – we are so grateful we could hear their voices.

When we held this competition last year we didn’t know who our entrants were. We judged each and every person purely on the basis of their competition submissions. Their identity was concealed behind a number. It was only when the winners were chosen that we could see who these impressive young people were. Today’s event in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons was all about meeting our incredible winners and runners up – face-to-face.

Our immediate Past President and competition project director, Sheila Eaton, said: “The winners were fantastic and their entries were amazing. It’s very inspiring for us to think we have got this generation coming along – I think they are going to make a big difference in society.”

Some of the entrants, like Chloe Hill, who won the 19-30 age group, want to overhaul the school curriculum, others, like Sofia Grebenkina, winner of the 13-18 age group – want more female role models in government. Well, after meeting these incredible people, we think women like these are well on their way to becoming role models for other women and girls.

Sheila again: “I think (all) the winners will become much more active in women’s issues. I am quite sure they are going to be the leaders in the future. I think they have the personalities to take things forward.”

Today has been a celebration for these women and girls who have broken through the chatter and been heard. It’s also been a chance for us at the National Council of Women to stop and enjoy the moment after all of the hard work behind the #SpeakOut competition.

Organising #SpeakOut was a huge collective effort by the National Council of Women. Some of those members spoke at today’s lunch event as a way of sharing our perception of the incredible proposals the entrants and winners submitted.

Gwenda Nicholas was in charge of coordinating the judges, (among other things!). She says the entrants “Showed us just how passionate they were and how much they wanted to see changes to make life better for everyone.”

We also heard some of the winners speak at today’s lunch and share with the audience, most impressively, how their careers and lives have progressed since the competition ended. These women had a chance today to meet with the competition judges, sponsors and NCW affiliates, an enormous networking potential.

One of our judges, Rebecca Stephens, said the power of this competition overall was to give these women the tools and the means to influence government policy. “I believe there should be an increased effort to encourage the voices of young women to be heard. It isn’t always easy to stand up and be counted. Help is needed to encourage women to put forward their ideas.”

National 19-30 winner, Chloe Hill, said her competition prize of going to the UN Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York had been a dream come true: “The legacy for me is probably that I have regained my faith in people – being surrounded by so many people at the UN that truly believed in gender equality, and shared my concerns about how far we have to go still was heartening. I want to be involved in that positive change, which I still think can come from education (which was what I wrote my essay on).”

We wish we could have given all of our entrants a prize, but, in a way, they all did win. By speaking from their hearts and minds about what they wanted most for a better future, the women and girls who took part in our competition got an opportunity to join the conversation. It was an opportunity to make this country better for everyone – that’s what the National Council of Women strives to do.

Today’s event at the House of Commons was a celebration of all of the energy and all of the great ideas from the next generation of female leaders. We can’t wait to see where these women lead us to next!