politics

Who is Jacinda Ardern? Everything you need to know about New Zealand's new Prime Minister.

“It is a women’s decision about when they choose to have children and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.”

And just like that Jacinda Ardern blasted into our news feeds. It was August this year and, six hours after being elected as the Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, Ardern was asked about her plans to have children.

Her response was as scathing as it was honest.

“I have been very open about discussing that dilemma because I think probably lots of women face it,” she told talk show hosts Mark Richardson and Jesse Mulligan.

“But it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable.”

Did we know then, that Jacinda Ardern – the 37-year-old from Hamilton in the North Island – would be appointed on October 19 the new Prime Minister of New Zealand?

We couldn’t know it but, oh, were we hopeful.

In August, Ardern was elected unanimously to as the Leader of the Opposition just seven weeks before the 2017 general election. “Mr Speaker, I did not come into politics to be an opposition member of parliament,” she told parliament at the time.

In those seven weeks – with Ardern spearheading a “campaign of positivity” – the Labour Party skyrocketed in terms of public opinion.

The election saw Labour gain 15 seats – increasing its representation to 45 seats, the best result since Labour lost power in 2008.

These 45 seats meant, if Labour was to partner with either the Greens or the New Zealand First party, it would form a majority government – overthrowing the National party, which has ruled for nine years.

Yesterday, when the leader of the New Zealand First party Winston Peters hosted a press conference, Ardern likely knew he would announce the forming of a coalition with Labour, bringing them into power.

What she didn’t know, was that he would specify her as the leader of that Coalition, and as New Zealand’s next Prime Minister… New Zealand’s youngest ever Prime Minister.

But hell, she’s earned it.

Jacinda Ardern. Image via Getty.
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Ardern has lived, breathed, and re-invented herself within politics her entire life.

She moved to London, straight after university, to work as a senior policy advisor for former Prime Minister Tony Blair before returning to New Zealand.

She was the youngest MP sitting in New Zealand parliament between 2008 and 2010. In her maiden speech, the then-28-year-old spoke about welfare, calling it "a necessary safety net, and a support for those who are unable to support themselves", according to Newsroom.

She is the youngest ever Prime Minister. The youngest ever Leader of the Labour party. And the second woman to lead the Labour Party in its history.

On the campaign trail, she stood up for the environment - negotiating with farmers regarding the Labour and Green parties' proposed water and pollution taxes.

She stood up - and is standing up - for women, hoping to ease restrictions on abortion by removing it from the 1961 Crimes Act. And attempting to break the stigma around telling employers about plans to take maternity leave.

She's is fighting for equal education opportunities across all of New Zealand, with a vision to make her country "a place where everyone, no matter where they live or what their income, has the best education and the opportunity to flourish," as she said in her first speech as the Leader of the Opposition in August.

She is a supporter of the LGBTQI community. In 2013 she voted in favour of the Marriage Equality Bill and, in 2004, paid to have her name included in a newspaper ad supporting the Civil Union Bill.

The Problem with powerful women. Post continues below.

She is flexible in her own views: she was raised in a religious family but became agnostic after realising religion doesn't fit with her political views.

She is determined - and not in spite of her age: "I've been in politics for nine years, I've had more experience than our last Prime Minister before he became leader of his party," she told the ABC in September. "Yes, relative to other politicians, I am a bit younger but I think that brings benefits too."

Perhaps most importantly, she knows politics isn't everything. This acknowledgment came after she had to attend her grandmother's funeral the day before election day.

"That loss right in the middle of a campaign was just a really acute reminder of the fact that there are so many things that are far more important than politics," she told ABC at the time.

Yesterday, Ardern said she is "privileged and humbled" by her new appointment. But she also vowed to stand by her promises:

“We will work hard to ensure New Zealand is once again a world leader, a country we can all be proud of," she said in a press conference, The Guardian reports.

"We said we could do this: We will do this," she continued. And, oh, we cannot wait to watch.

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