By Matilde Bechet
On January 18th, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s 37-year-old Prime Minister, announced her pregnancy on social media. For women, this is an important revelation. After Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, Ardern is only the second leader in history to give birth while holding office. In addition, she is the youngest elected leader in the country’s history and the youngest woman in power.
A member of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern joined the political scene when she was only 17 years old. She later joined parliament in 2008. A supporter of left-wing politics, Jacinda reached the position of deputy leader for the Labour Party in March of 2017, and Labour Leader (highest position in the party) in August.
When running for Prime Minister, Ardern focused on “tackling inequality, affordable housing and student debt” for the people of New Zealand, according to Stuff. Close to election time, Ardern and her opponent failed to attain a majority of the votes, which lead to an agreement that placed Ardern and her party in the chair.
The news of her pregnancy came as a great surprise for Jacinda Ardern; she doubted her ability to conceive children due to health reasons, but to her shock, she discovered she was pregnant while preparing to assume the position of Prime Minister.
Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford, shared the baby news on Twitter, and while the couple received numerous congratulatory messages, others were not as welcoming. A British tabloid columnist, Liz Jones, commented on the announcement in a Daily Mail column, stating, “A pregnant prime minister isn't feminism, it's betraying your voters. Surely your country shouldn't have to compete for attention with a colicky toddler.”
During an interview with Today, Ardern responded to Ms. Jones’ feelings with a firm stand, stating, “Women multitask every day. Every single day. The sentiment in that piece suggests that women can only be mothers, or other. Can I be a Prime Minister and a mother? Absolutely… Will I have help to do it? Yes.”
Jacinda Ardern’s baby is due in June. However, she isn’t viewing her upcoming absence as “time off.” Rather, she believes she is “doing something different for a while,” as explained on The National.
After the baby’s birth, Winston Peters will act as Prime Minister until Ardern’s return six weeks later.
In light of the Times Up movement and #MeToo, women have clearly been making an impact and working toward change not only in the United States but throughout the world. Jacinda Ardern’s recent announcement only adds to the growing belief that women are just as capable as men of working, and they shouldn’t have to respond to questions regarding pregnancy. The fact that Ardern will be stepping down for just a few weeks highlights her drive to return to work; she isn’t going to disappoint her country. Jacinda demonstrates her perseverance and strength when defending her ability to both govern a country and care for her family.
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