January's Woman of the Month - Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern was born in 1980 in Hamilton, New Zealand. She describes herself as a social democrat, a feminist and a progressive; and was introduced to politics by her aunt Marie Ardern, who recruited the teenaged Jacinda to campaign for the re-election of a Labour MP. After graduating with a politics degree, Jacinda spent time in NYC where she volunteered in a soup kitchen and took part in workers’ rights campaigns.
Jacinda was elected as president of the International Union of Socialist Youth in 2008. Clearly, Jacinda was making waves as a talented, down to earth and empathetic politician who gave a voice to the younger generation. In 2017, after a lot of hard work and dedication, Jacinda was elected the youngest ever leader of the Labour Party at just 37 years old. She then participated in the 2017 Woman’s March, a global protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the USA and openly criticised his behaviour.
Jacinda is New Zealand’s third female prime minister; after 30+ male leaders this is certainly a refreshing change and her position has encouraged women across the globe to challenge the distinctly masculine status quo. Jacinda is engaged to Clarke Gayford and together they have a daughter, Neve, born in 2018. Former Pakistani prime minister Benzir Bhutto is the only other world leader that has given birth while in office; she was dismissed as leader of her country seven months later. Despite this worrying fact, Jacinda embraced motherhood and has maintained a delicate balance between work and time with her family. Jacinda made headlines when she attended the 73rd UN general assembly meeting with baby Neve. Jacinda was breastfeeding her daughter and so Neve travelled with her on the six-day trip to NYC.
Ardern gave her first speech in New York at UNICEF’s Social Good Summit, restating her commitment to ending child poverty and making her country the best place in the world to be a child. She also called for immediate action against climate change, for gender equality and for kindness as the basis of action. At home, Jacinda is passionate about tackling child poverty and her government has expanded free doctor visits, provided free menstrual products to schools and increased the state minimum wage.
She talks openly in support of same-sex marriage and in 2018, she became the first PM to march in a pride parade. Jacinda came to the world's attention and was internationally praised for her treatment of the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019. Significantly she labelled the events a “well-planned terrorist attack” and announced a period of national mourning. Jacinda refused to speak the name the attacker; instead she spoke of those that had lost their lives in the abhorrent attack and stressed the attacker's incompatibility with NZ values.
One of the famous pictures to come out of of 2019 was of Jacinda comforting a member of the Christchurch mosque; described by The Guardian as “an image of hope”. This picture was projected onto the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa and a mural was created, in celebration of love and respect. Furthermore, the decisive and effective manner in which Jacinda ordered a ban on most semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles was widely commemorated and compared to America’s hideously lax firearms regulations.
During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Jacinda has been praised for highlighting the human as well as economic consequences of this devastating global pandemic. Her level-headed handling of the crisis led her to a landslide victory in 2020 and a second term of office and her star continues to rise.
In fact, her popularity amongst New Zealander’s and on an international level has led to the term Jacindamania or the Jacinda Effect and has propelled New Zealand to global attention. She has been hailed as an “anecdote to Trumpism” ; with her core of steel, her quick thinking and her progressive politics. After the recent storming of the American capital by armed fascists; I sincerely hope Jacinda will serve as the desperately vaccine against bigotry. The world needs more Jacinda Ardern’s; it needs more people speaking their mind and choosing to love rather than hate.