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Ardern’s Archduke-ship

A country with more sheep than people, touted as the land of the Kiwi, New Zealand, has had a rich and diverse political history. By becoming the first nation in the world to give women the right to vote all the way back in 1893, New Zealand cemented itself as paragon for including women in a predominantly patriarchal political system. The current Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern is one of the very few female leaders of a country, stupefying the world when she first took office aged 37 in 2017. With elections around the corner, let’s dwell into her chances of being re-elected.

Ardern joined the Labour Party aged 17 and has been unstoppable ever since. From becoming a senior member in the ‘Youth Labour’ sector of the party, to being unanimously elected the leader of the Labour Party, her journey has been sensational. In 2017 after a hung parliament ensued, the Labour Party, New Zealand First and Greens formed a coalition with Ardern as the next Prime Minister. And the rest is history…

Ardern’s leadership style has been unique yet extremely successful, despite initial concerns that her inexperience would cause her to fail. By actively reaching out to her community via Facebook Lives to introducing her daughter to the world at a UN conference, the perspicacious and charismatic leader has time and again won hearts.

Her party is poised to win the election once again and this time with a much larger share than the previous time. What has changed in the last few years? Why the sudden burgeoning popularity?

  • The Christchurch Crisis On 15 March 2019, New Zealand, for the first time in its modern history, witnessed a harrowing terrorist attack on the Muslim community, in which 51 people lost their lives and 40 were grievously injured. A white supremacist malevolently massacred innocent worshipers in two mosques during their Friday prayers, while livestreaming it on Facebook. Ardern, an atheist, immediately held a press conference to deliver a message that would bring her country’s citizens together, uniting them against abhorrent communal hatred. She attended the funerals and covered her head to keep true with her Muslim brethren. Within weeks of the atrocity, reforms were suggested to ban the ownership of semi-automatic guns and a second reform to further tighten the circulation was passed in March. The perpetrator was given life imprisonment without parole, an unprecedented punishment in New Zealand’s history.

  • The Plastic Ban ➢ Under her leadership, New Zealand banned the use of single use plastic, introducing hefty fines for miscreants. ➢ She receives a lot of letters from people, mainly children, concerned about the copious amounts of plastic in the ocean; she ensures she reads every single letter. She further said, “We’re small, and our contribution to the global emissions profile is even smaller, but we are surrounded by island nations who will feel the brunt of climate change acutely.” “I see ourselves as having a responsibility to demonstrate that we can and we will lead the charge.”

  • Pioneer of Women’s Rights ➢ Ardern recently announced that sanitary products will be free for young women in schools across the country from 2021, in a bid to help eradicate period poverty. She is also leading by example by not only leading a country but also being a full-time mother to her daughter, who was born with Ardern still in office. ➢ For the public in New Zealand and beyond, the new arrival in the country’s First Family has had considerable significance. She remains unmarried to her partner, Clarke Timothy Gayford. For young women, the example Ardern is setting is an affirmation that they too can expect to have that choice. For young men, Gayford being the full-time care-taker of a baby sends a powerful message that they too can exercise that choice. Working moms and stay at home dads are a perfectly acceptable lifestyle and the First Family is proudly owning it.

  • The White Island Eruption ➢ New Zealand had to deal with an apocalyptic volcanic eruption in December 2019. A total of 21 people succumbed to the plume of ash and lava. The investigation is ongoing, but Ardern’s response was guided by empathy. Paying tribute to those who died, she said, “Many people did extraordinary things to save lives, those who have been lost are now forever linked to New Zealand, and we will hold them close.”

  • The Covid – 19 Pandemic ➢ The crown jewel in Ardern’s tiara is probably the way her government dealt with the pestilential crisis that has engulfed the world. New Zealand balked the crisis with early lockdown diktats, citizen's adherence to the rules, widespread testing and contact tracing. Ardern’s transparency with her people, reforms to give