Well folks, Women’s History Month is coming to an end, and so is our special series of shows and blog posts. But, before we go, there’s one more woman we have to talk about: Jacinda Ardern. (And, to be clear, just because the month is ending, doesn’t mean we won’t still laude amazing women, just that we get to go back to more random topics from here on out. So, anyway…) Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you may have missed why Ms. Ardern deserves a closer look. Keep reading and find out!
Born in 1980 in rural New Zealand, Ms. Ardern graduated from the University of Waikato, and then worked as a researcher for Helen Clark (a Prime Minister of New Zeland) and as a policy advisory to Tony Blair (a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom). Her politics have always been progressive, and so she joined New Zealand’s Labour Party at the age of 17 and was elected to Parliament in 2008. As a rising star, she became deputy leader of the Party, and, when the leader resigned shortly before the 2017 general election, became the leader of the opposition for a short time. It was a short time because her party was able to put together a coalition party following the vote, and so she became New Zealand’s Prime Minister. And if you didn’t grow-up in a country with a parliamentary system (first, my condolences), all you need to know is that she’s got brains and political talent, so it’s no wonder she ended up at the head of the country.
Move over Gal Gadot
Ms. Ardern is a pretty amazing woman. She is New Zealand’s third female Prime Minister, and advocates for social justice, allowing more refugees to enter her country, indigenous (Maori) rights, same-sex marriage (she was the first Prime Minister to march in a gay pride parade), decriminalization of abortions, legalization of weed, and protecting the planet from climate change. She is only the second world leader to give birth while in office; she worked right up until her delivery on January 19, 2018, and then took a six-week maternity leave before heading back to work. Baby Neve Te Aroha made a splash in the world when she accompanied her mother to the UN’s General Assembly just three months later. She’s so popular with her people that they coined a new term: “Jacindamania.”
So all that is great – Ms. Ardern is clearly one bad-ass world leader, but her critics often say she’s all sizzle no steak. It’s going to be hard to lob that claim at her any more following the March 15th terror attack in Christchurch where 50 Muslims at prayers in two mosques were murdered. Ms. Adern’s response was swift, heartfelt and sincere: she visited the site in a hijab to show respect and solidarity with the Muslim community, she spoke with survivors and the families of victims, and she honoured the memories of those killed by calling out the systemic issues that led to their deaths. And THEN she got to work. The day after the attack, she boldly declared that “New Zealand’s gun laws will change” and promised reforms within 10 days; and she’s following up. Not only did she make a tangible difference in her own country, but she took off the gloves and started going in on the global roots of the issues at hand: when President Trash Monster called to offer his “sympathies” and ask what he could do she asked him to have “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities”; she called out the tech giants who allow hate speech to spread and ferment in on-line platforms for their role in the terror attack; and she is openly discussion what went wrong in New Zealand that led to one of their citizen murdering others for such a senseless reason. This is one world leader who decided the ‘thoughts and prays’ route wasn’t for her and is following up with true and meaningful action.
So, not that she needs or wants it, but Prime Minister Ardern has my full support. She’s become the mold I wish all world leaders would style themselves after. Now, go out and be good to one another!
Jacinda Ardern (Wikipedia)