All the ways Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's feminist Prime Minister, is breaking boundaries

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All the ways Jacinda Ardern has broken down boundaries [Photo: Getty]
All the ways Jacinda Ardern has broken down boundaries [Photo: Getty]

It’s been a busy few days for Jacinda Ardern. Yesterday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister spent her first day at the World Economic forum in Switzerland, on a Safeguarding Our Planet panel dealing with climate change alongside Sir David Attenborough and Prince William.

And she was said to have made quite the impact with one correspondent claiming she “has turned out to be a bit of a star” during the working trip.

But her ‘bit of a star’ status seems to be something of a default setting for the 38-year-old.

Since making history on 26 October 2017 when she became the youngest female head of state in the world, the female trailblazer has given us plenty of reasons to appreciate her greatness…

She’s a feminist on her terms

For some, a decision to shun marriage, take your husband’s name or allow your father to walk you down the aisle is tantamount to being a bad feminist. Insert eye roll here.

Just this week, Jacinda Ardern was asked to defend her down decisions surrounding marriage.

In an interview with BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire, the PM explained that though she may be feminist she “absolutely” draws the line at the suggestion of proposing to her partner Clarke Gayford.

“No, I would not ask, no,” she replied, when asked if she would ask her other half to marry her.

“You’re a feminist?” Derbyshire pressed her.

“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely I’m a feminist,” Ardern responded. “But no, I want to put him through the pain and torture of having to agonise about that question himself.

“No, that’s letting him off the hook, absolutely not.”

It isn’t the first time Ardern has been quizzed about her relationship with her partner and her attitude to motherhood in a manner that seems somewhat gendered.

Within seven hours of taking office, the New Zealand PM was asked whether she planned to have a baby, something she rightly shot down as “totally unacceptable”.

And last year the a television interview with PM drew criticism for being “creepy” and “sexist,” due to the focus on her looks and some pretty inappropriate questioning about her pregnancy.

In the opening segment, reporter Charles Wooley described the 37-year-old PM as “attractive.”

“I’ve met a lot of prime ministers in my time,” he said. “But none so young, not too many so smart, and never one so attractive.”

Thankfully Ms Ardern was well up to the task of dealing with it telling reporters she “wasn’t fazed” by the interview, even if the question about her conception date was a bit of a surprise.

“You’re assuming that I haven’t been asked that question before by New Zealand media as well… At the time certainly, I think that question threw me a little bit, but it would be going a bit far to say I was somehow offended by it. I wasn’t. It’s one I think put under the heading of too much information,” she said.

The New Zealand PM made history when she gave birth last June [Photo: Getty]
The New Zealand PM made history when she gave birth last June [Photo: Getty]

She’s paving the way for working mothers

When she gave birth to her daughter, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford in June last year, Ardern became just the second world leader in history to give birth while in office.

Throwing aside old-fashioned ideas of motherhood and work, Ardern took just six weeks of maternity leave and hit the ground running when she returned to her role in August, even taking her new baby along to the UN General Assembly.

Ardern was still breastfeeding Neve, meaning her baby daughter had to travel with her to New York for the six-day trip.

Not that she wants any credit for being able to so successfully juggle her high profile career and motherhood.

“I am not the first woman to multi-task,” she said interview with Radio New Zealand. “I am not the first woman to work and have a baby – there are many women who have done this before.”

She champions equality for women

Also on the motherhood theme, the female leader is living proof that women can ‘have it all’ and not have to choose between career and family.

You can be pregnant or a new mum while negotiating coalition deals, campaigning, and generally running a country.

What’s more, the new mum highlights the possibility of making the work/motherhood juggle work by flipping stereotypical gender roles on their head.

That’s because in the Ardern family, it’s her partner Clarke Gayford, who Clarke Gayford, who is little Neve’s full time caregiver, staying at home to look after the baby, while Ardern gets on with the job at hand.

Not only does this reopen the conversation about stay-at-home dads and paternity leave. It acts as proof to other men that being the primary caregiver for your child is a more-than-viable option.

It’s obviously a subject the PM feels passionate about and last year she was instrumental in passing a bill to extend paid parental leave policies in New Zealand from 18 to 22 weeks.

Jacinda Ardern took her baby to the UN General Assembly last year [Photo: Getty]
Jacinda Ardern took her baby to the UN General Assembly last year [Photo: Getty]

She gives a damn about the environment

During her appearance on the Safeguarding Our Planet panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos., Ardern described climate change as the greatest threat facing the world, urging other leaders need to think carefully about the part they’re playing in addressing global warming.

“This is about being on the right side of history,” she said. “Do you want to be a leader that looks back in time and say that you were on the wrong side of the argument when the world was crying out for a solution? It’s as simple as that.”

The PM also drew attention to New Zealand’s new “well-being budget.” Unlike traditional measures of economic growth, like gross domestic product, the system is designed to measure the country’s environmental and societal performance.

“This year, for the first time, we will be undertaking a well-being budget, where we’re embedding that notion of making decisions that aren’t just about growth for growth’s sake, but how are our people faring?” she said. “How is their overall well-being and their mental health … how is our environment doing? These are the measures that will give us a true measure of our success.”

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