Jacinda Ardern has only been the Prime Minister of New Zealand for six months and has already done more for her country than most state leaders have in their entire careers. (Yes, I’m @ing you Malcolm Turnbull).
Ardern has taken the world by storm since becoming the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party in July 2017, and winning the New Zealand election only two months later.
So, in honour of Ardern’s six-month anniversary as New Zealand’s PM, here are 10 reasons why she’s a downright legend.
1. She won an ‘unwinnable’ election …
Two months before the election, New Zealand Labour was polling pretty poorly. In July 2017, Labour leader Andrew Little resigned and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern. She was called “inexperienced” and “untested”. But in just two months, because of Ardern’s leadership and progressive policy agenda, Labour’s polling soared. Their agenda included ending child poverty and increasing the minimum wage, distinguishing them from Bill English and the New Zealand National Party. With some help from Winston Peters’ New Zealand First and the Greens Party, a deal was done and Labour secured government in October.
2. … and she’s only 37.
When Ardern replaced Little, she became the youngest ever leader of New Zealand Labour. When she was elected Prime Minister, she became the youngest female leader of any developed economy in the world. Really makes you question your life choices, right?
3. She was asked about having kids seven hours into being Labour leader … and handled it perfectly.
When a New Zealand radio presenter demanded Ardern answer questions about whether she was planning to have children, Ardern responded like the feminist boss woman she is — by deeming it “totally unacceptable”.
“It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. That is unacceptable.”
The video went viral, with the clip being tweeted all around the world.
4. We know what Ardern stands for …
What is Bill Shorten’s position on Adani? What does Malcolm Turnbull actually think about the Banking Royal Commission? These are the questions that keep me awake at night because, frankly, who knows? In a time of wishy-washy answers to tough political questions, Ardern tells it straight. And I respect that. Strong leadership is becoming a rarity around the world — but we know what Ardern stands for. She’s not afraid to come out in support of same-sex marriage and accessible abortion. Where other politicians are risk-adverse when answering questions about international issues
5. … and she turns her commitments into reality.
Ardern and Labour have already extended paid parental leave, increased the minimum wage, presented equal pay and child poverty legislation, kicked off an inquiry into abuse in state care as well a mental health enquiry, started the tax working group, and much more. Instead of playing political games, Ardern and her team have put their heads down and done the work necessary to address the issues facing New Zealand.
Although there are commitments Labour still needs to fulfil, like decriminalising abortion and having a referendum about legalising recreational cannabis use, I have faith Ardern will tick those off the to-do list soon enough.
6. She put New Zealand back on the map politically.
There’s no doubt that we’re living in a time of international political tension, with divisive figures like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson using their platform to perpetuate often hateful and regressive ideas. Ardern was deemed the anti-Trump by Vogue and has become a figurehead for a new movement of political optimism — where politics is once again used to change lives for the better, rather than as an outlet for self-interest and game playing.
7. She’s the Prime Minister of New Zealand … and pregnant.
*audio of glass ceilings breaking all over the world*
The internet blew up when Ardern announced her pregnancy earlier this year. She is proving that a woman can hold the highest position in a country and, on June 17, literally have a child while in office. Her announcement also shed light on the persistently sexist perspective society has when it comes to women balancing work and children. Ardern has copped flack that no male politician would ever experience, but she’s tackling the criticism head-on and forging the way for future female politicians, stating: “I am not the first woman to multitask”.
8. She uses social media to keep it real.
Social media has changed the face of politics, especially in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Ardern keeps it real by updating people on what she’s doing via Facebook Live and posting short videos. Through this medium, she chats with the people of New Zealand about what is really happening inside Parliament and the effect that different reforms under discussion will have on their lives. It’s refreshing to see a Prime Minister so keen to engage with the community and to hear their thoughts on particular policies and initiatives.
9. She spent five days in Waitangi …
Waitangi Day in New Zealand commemorates the signing of the treaty between the British Crown and the Māori people. It’s a day that prime ministers in New Zealand have been hesitant to celebrate because of continuing tensions over the land and access to cultural traditions that the Māori people lost due to colonisation. In 1990, Queen Elizabeth attended ceremonies and was booed by attendees, who threw items at her. But Ardern spent five days in Waitangi this year — the place where the treaty was signed — showing leadership on the issues that need to be addressed and building trust with the community.
10. … and wore a Maori Cloak to Buckingham Palace.
When it comes to the international stage, Arden shows that she represents all New Zealanders. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April, Ardern wore a Kahu huruhuru: a Māori cloak, recognising the Indigenous community of New Zealand and celebrating their culture on an international scale. Perhaps other Heads of Government, particularly in the Commonwealth, should consider showing the same respect for the traditional owners of the land they walk on. Once again, Ardern leads the way.
So just six months into Ardern’s term, it seems that Jacindamania is still rife all over the world. I can’t wait to see what she does next.