By Marilia Platsa,
Jacinda Ardern assumed the office of New Zealand’s Prime Minister in 2017 at the age of 37, becoming the youngest person in that position in approximately 150 years. Since then, the leader of the Labor Party has not stop making an impact owing to its policy, such as the confrontation of the attack at the mosque in 2019, the successful dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and the introduction of novice legislations, for instance the most recent law regarding bereavement leave.
In June 2018, the Prime Minister gave birth to her daughter proving her point that a woman is able to balance working life and motherhood if she wishes to. More specifically in an interview, Jacinda pointed out that “It is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job, or have job opportunities.” By giving birth, Ardern became the first leader in almost 30 years to deliver while serving the office. However, her personal achievements do not constitute the only reason for looking up to her. In March 2019, she had to cope with the attack at a mosque located in central Christchurch along with a similar one in Linwood during the midday prayers. The loss of at least 50 people in addition to 50 injured was a grave corollary of the event, calling for a careful handling of the situation. Jacinda labelled the attack as “terrorism” and took the next step by announcing the prohibition of the sale of all semi-automatic weapons as well as of the assault rifles. A wave of reactions arose, moreover, after her immediate decision to modify the country’s gun laws. Concerning the two attacks, a 28-year-old white Australian man was held accountable, who had formerly posted on his social media account a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto. According to this manifesto, he had travelled to New Zealand only to actualize this mission since the country is known for its favorable immigration policy. Jacinda visited the attacked location, showed affection to the victims by hugging them while also she opted for a black headscarf to attribute respect.
In addition to this, the way she confronted with the pandemic drew the attention of the international community. When on February 2, the first individual outside the borders of China died in Philippines, New Zealand immediately ordered the debarment of the people coming from or through China. The New Zealanders returning to the home country from China were obliged to endure a 14-day isolation. In March 2020, all the incomers were submitted at self-isolation, the borders closed and the country entered a national lockdown. The policies undertaken were characterized as draconian, disciplinarian and as imposed in a very early stage. Indeed, the economy collapsed, a reasonable outcome on the grounds that the country’s well-being depends on tourism. By October, the measures including masks wearing and social distancing were abandoned. The “go early, go hard” policy had been proven fruitful and the key in making New Zealand covid-free. In fact, WHO considers the country’s reaction a significant role model for the global community. New Zealand can carry out around 10,000 tests per day while also when there is a confirmed case the tracking of the previous contacts is activated directly, forewarning the potential carriers of the virus to self-isolate. The campaign “United against Covid-19” was vital to convey the message that we have to stand unified against the virus and that it is a matter that concerns each one of the members of the community. Overall, COVID-19 is defeated in the area to an extent, despite the fact that under certain circumstances, cities may reenter into lockdown in the event of an identified case. From the beginning of the pandemic, New Zealand has only 26 deaths and 2,507 confirmed cases.
Among the highlights of her career as Prime Minister to this day is the recent legislation that provides the employers with three days leave in case of a miscarriage or stillbirth. The law covers furthermore the instances where couples are planning to have a child via the procedure of adoption or surrogate mother. It does not apply yet to women who terminate their pregnancy employing the medical method of abortion. It is remarkable that the new regime is addressed not only to mothers but also to their spouse or partner. The bill introduced by Ginny Andersen, member of the Labor Party, and passed unanimously by the parliament allows for a paid leave. Simultaneously it gives the opportunity to the parents to not spend their sick leave but instead tap into this bereavement leave. Besides the unplanned termination of a pregnancy or relevant sensitive matters leave a scar to the interested parts. Parents need time to heal, accept this tragedy, until they are ready to move on with their life properly. Grief is a vital stage of the process of healing. There is no doubt that this innovative bill instils a more humane element in the rigid nature of law. The law targets at eradicating the taboo that surrounds the miscarriage and the discussions associated with it. In fact, in New Zealand approximately 1 to 4 women face a miscarriage, fuelling the dire need of addressing the problem more and making women feel comfortable sharing their experience. New Zealand is the second country to inaugurate the miscarriage leave after India, which stipulates a 6-week leave for women suffered by an unplanned end of pregnancy.
It is evident that Jacinda Ardern is a true leader showing the way to her country to overcome the obstacles with courage, care and active engagement. Jacinda is considered to be an exceptional female figure, who, with the assistance of her political party, pioneers and faces the challenges effectively but always with empathy for those who struggle.
- Natasha Frost, New Zealand Approves Paid Leave After Miscarriage. Available here.
- Tess McClure, New Zealand brings in bereavement leave for miscarriages and stillbirths. Available here.
- Britannica, Jacinda Ardern. Available here.
- BBC, Jacinda Ardern: New Zealand’s prime minister. Available here.
- Elle Hunt, Words matter: how New Zealand’s clear messaging helped beat Covid. Available here.
- Anna Jones, How did New Zealand become Covid-19 free?. Available here.