A Tribute to Jacinda Ardern

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Zafar Aziz Chaudhry

On January 19, 2023, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, shocked the world by announcing her resignation as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party and her fresh decision not to seek re-election for a third term. It is extremely unusual for a popular leader who has governed her country as a great reformer for nearly 6 years to volunteer to leave power when she has a good chance of being re-elected for the next two terms. She cited a desire to spend more time with her family, for which she expressed her inability to continue in power. In her farewell speech, she said, “I know what this job takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice”
Jacinda Ardern occupied a unique position in her own country as the saviour of her people and country but had also earned a wide reputation all over the world for undertaking radical reforms in her country and steering a foreign policy by fostering cordial relations with most of the eastern and western countries, which glorified the name of her country, which was little known to the world at large.
As an experienced parliamentarian, she came into power in 2017 and her first term was extended up to 2020. She came to the attention of Pakistan and the rest of the world in March 2019, when a heinous terrorist attack by a religious fanatic inside a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed approximately 50 Muslims and injured more than 40 others. Such an occurrence was never expected in a place like New Zealand; therefore, it almost shook the entire world. But more than this horrific tragedy, the image of Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, emerged in all its glory. Her image of, weeping, sobbing, and crying over the dead and consoling the injured and bereaved families comes alive to our mind. It appeared to all viewers as if it were her loss.
Speaking about the massacre of Christchurch mosque she emphasized that these Muslim “brothers, daughters, fathers and children… were New Zealanders. They are us.” She also showed a strong resolve to change gun laws which she did within a month of the tragedy. In a speech in memory of the deceased, she refused to give the criminal the attention he craved for doing this crime and insisted: “We in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.” The world press commended her as “the Real Leader who showed dignity, grace, and courage.”In her interviews on YouTube, she appeared with her spick-and-span presence, always lively and effervescent. Being intelligent and quick-witted, she always impressed her interviewers. I also read a book by Michelle Duff written on her life and career.
She became the world’s youngest female head of government at the age of 37. Ardern later became the world’s second elected head of government to give birth to a baby child while in office (after Benazir Bhutto).
Jacinda, by temperament and ideology, is a social democrat and a progressive. As the head of NZ’s first Labour government, she has focused on the New Zealand housing crisis, child poverty, and social inequality. The way she tackled the tragic terrorist attack on Muslims in Christchurch mosque was acclaimed by the entire world. She described the incident as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” The terrorist was a white supremacist. In his trial, he was charged with 51 murders, and 40 attempted murders and later awarded a death sentence. Jacinda made urgent arrangements for the treatment of the injured in the hospitals and made special arrangements for the dispatch of the dead bodies to their respective countries. In this entire sordid incident, Aurdern involved herself personally to pay her heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved families by personally attending their funeral processions, visiting their houses, and personally consoling the bereaved. This single gesture of sympathy and compassion made her a popular leader of the entire world.
She took urgent steps to cut child poverty in New Zealand in half, enacting several reforms, including the government’s flagship families package, which provided special health care to women and children. Between September and November 2019, she visited several countries and attended various international conferences. She criticized America for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which according to her ” took us backwards, not forwards.” On 24 September 2019, Ardern became the first female head of government to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting with her infant baby.
In reaction to the massacre of Christchurch mosque, she got a bill passed unanimously through New Zealand Parliament that banned most semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, The violators will face up to five years in prison. Ardern has spoken in support of same-sex marriage, and she voted for the Marriage Amendment Act of 2013. Ardern supported liberalizing abortion law by removing abortion from the Crimes Act of 1961.
Forbes magazine has placed her in 38th position among the 100 most powerful women in the world in 2019. She was included in the 2019 Time 100 list. The magazine speculated that she would win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 (for her successful handling of the terrorist attack on Muslims and securing minority protection), but this did not happen.
Ardern has become a global icon for her strength and decisiveness while uniting a country in shock and mourning.