Before becoming New Zealand’s youngest female Prime Minister at the age of 38, Jacinda Ardern held the similar distinction as regards with New Zealand’s Labour Party. She took the reins of the NZ Labour Party after former leader Andrew Little stepped down from the role, leaving Ardern – who had been serving as the deputy leader – to be his successor. Little’s resignation from the NZ Labour Party leadership and Ardern assuming the role placed the Labour Party into government. Ardern’s ascent to popularity among Kiwis even coined the name Jacindamania. She took office in October 2017, making her the country’s youngest Prime Minister in 150 years. Together with the New Zealand First Party, the NZ Labour Party formed a coalition government with Ardern as the Prime Minister and NZ First Party leader Winston Peters as the Deputy Prime Minister.
As more strongman leaders appear in different parts of the world, the light seems to be dimming for progressive government. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s win may have paved the way for liberal female leaders. Ardern’s platform focuses primarily on education reform, poverty alleviation, mental healthcare, and she campaigned relentlessly for positivity. She chooses to speak with the media directly instead of speaking through a spokesperson. Ardern follows the likes of other progressive leaders like former US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Aside from being the Prime Minister, she also took on the role as New Zealand’s Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, and Minister for National Security and Intelligence, which are issues of particular concern to her.
Hard stance on gun control
One of the toughest challenges Jacinda Ardern’s government faced occurred on the 15th of March 2019, when a man armed with a military-style semi-automatic weapon went to mosques in Christchurch and shot dead 51 people. The incident set a gloomy atmosphere around New Zealand, but Ardern was quick to take action by announcing sweeping changes to New Zealand’s gun laws immediately after the incident took place. Less than a week later, she gave more details about the gun control reforms and it included the banning of assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics, along with developing a gun buyback scheme for those who already own the weapons.
Ardern’s stance and action on gun control caught the attention of people around the world. It was even praised by US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is within her merit also affecting the sphere of US progressive politics positively. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Ardern called out the United States’ inaction on gun laws and says she doesn’t understand the US on why it can’t draw the line even after continuous mass shootings in the country.
While her country was mourning over the terrorist attack, she didn’t hesitate in joining them to hear their grievances. She personally took part in the ceremony to honor the lives lost in Christchurch. In her personal visit to Christchurch, Ardern wore a hijab showing her solidarity with the Muslim community affected by the shooting. She consoled her people, assuring their safety and security to continue practicing their faith. Up to this day, Ardern refuses to give the gunman “notoriety” over her country by not mentioning his name as the case goes on, calling him a terrorist, criminal, and extremist.
Immigration and globalism
Ardern isn’t afraid to be inclusive and air out her opinions about globalism. Ardern believes in an immigration system that works for New Zealand and will give a better opportunity for those seeking to migrate to her country. In Ardern’s UN General Assembly speech, she imposed New Zealand’s international involvement and rejected isolationism, the latter almost always brought up by US President Donald Trump.
Ardern recently returned from a trip to Tuvalu to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum held on the 13th to the 16th of August. Various leaders from the Island countries of the Pacific, along with the New Zealand and Australian Prime Ministers and their cabinet ministers, held talks on how to reverse the effects of climate change. Pacific Island nations expressed their worry about the rising sea level due to global warming, meaning their homes face the possibility of becoming drowned in water and no longer inhabitable.
Ardern’s government recognizes climate change as a problem and has introduced the Climate Change Response (Zero-Carbon) Amendment Bill back in May. Ardern also went as far as challenging New Zealand’s Trans-Tasman neighbor, Australia, to take a more serious stance and that it must answer to the Pacific Island countries with regards to climate change.
KiwiBuild or housing
Ardern’s government is now on the cusp of rolling out its flagship policy KiwiBuild. The policy is a housing program aimed for first home buyers – at the same time provides economic stimulus and apprenticeships for young workers.
Becoming a mother while in office
Ardern became the second world leader to give birth while in office. Neve Te Aroha is her first child with long-time partner Clarke Gayford. Before taking office, she was questioned about her ability to lead the country if she is to also be a mother and take maternity leave. Ardern quickly labeled the question inappropriate to ask women of today.
Ardern later proved that she is more than capable to be a leader and a mother at the same time. After giving birth to baby Neve, she immediately went back to work from a six-week maternity leave while her partner takes care of their child at home. She also became the first world leader to take her child to the UN General Assembly in 2018.
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Ardern is at the forefront of change in the world’s political landscape, armed with progressive ideals. She remains to be one of the more contentious topics people love to discuss. Her views and opinions about world politics invoke discourse. There is no doubt Ardern is the quintessential 21st century nation leader.
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