Jacinda Ardern hasn’t wasted any time since taking on the role of Prime Minister of New Zealand. At 37 she’s the youngest female government leader in the world, but politics is nothing new to this Hamilton-born liberal.
At seventeen, Ardern joined the New Zealand Labour Party and went on to pursue a degree in politics and public relations at the University of Waikato. However, in an in-depth interview with Vogue she admits that her favourite subject at school was actually metalwork. “I could have found other ways to satisfy my life’s ambition than being prime minister,” she says.
Yet when former Labour-leader Andrew Little withdrew from the election campaign last year, Ardern stepped up and revived Labour’s campaign enough for the party to come out on top. “I didn’t think I would be prime minister, because I didn’t consider it”, she says. “But that’s the power of saying yes, because there will be a moment when someone asks you to do something beyond your comfort zone. I am not unique.”
Her values are based on this simple concept that, despite being Prime Minister, she isn’t that much different to any other New Zealander. Throughout her campaign – and career – Ardern has maintained a vision for kinder, fairer politics that everyday people can relate to. “I hope people feel differently about their government”, she says.
Ardern has become somewhat of a symbol for what life in 2018 is actually like. A female, under 40 years of age, pregnant and unmarried, is leading the country. And instead of crumbling under pressure, she takes it all in her stride with the “can-do” attitude Kiwis are known for. “Clarke and I just laughed about it because there was now literally nothing that could happen to me that would make this year bigger”, she says on discovering she was pregnant last year. “But I’m not the first woman in the world to multitask.”
Climate change is one particular issue Ardern is eager to improve. “We’re small, but we do our bit by standing up for what we believe in. We’re surrounded by island nations who will feel the brunt of climate change. So I see us as having a responsibility”, she says. “The most difficult thing for us to do is to mitigate and offset our agricultural emissions. If we find a way to do that, then we’re showing other countries how to do it too.”
Ardern acknowledges the momentous work that needs to be done, but maintains the optimistic attitude she became defined by during the election campaign. “How exciting it is we have this opportunity for change in New Zealand”, she says.
— David Clark (@DavidClarkNZ) January 25, 2018