Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged women to not let motherhood stand in the way of their leadership aspirations at her valedictory address to Parliament Wednesday. Demonstrating her own example, Ardern, 42, declared that it is possible to be a leader and a mother.
Ardern leaves behind a legacy of strong and inspirational leadership. When she assumed the position in 2017, she was the youngest Prime Minister in the country’s history and the second world leader to give birth while in office. During her time, she acted with eloquence and intelligence during periods of crisis, such as the Christchurch terrorist attack in 2019 which left 51 people dead, a volcanic eruption that killed 22 people and the Covid-19 pandemic. In her speech, Ardern declared that nations cannot fully move on from tragedies, only weaving them into their psyches with how they confront them.
Ardern’s quick rise to global status as a gentle and progressive leader inspired many. In her valedictory speech, she opened up about her fertility journey and the depression that came with being told at 37 that she had several biological factors preventing her from conceiving. Ardern was shocked when she found out she was pregnant just a few months after being appointed the leader of the Labour Party.
Ardern’s departure from politics served as an opportunity to remember the hostility and abuse that women leaders often endure in their positions. Subsequent to Ardern’s announcement of her departure from politics, Scotland’s first Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also resigned, citing burn out.
Ardern will use her experience in leadership as Special ENvoy for the Christchurch Call, an initiative she created after the terrorist attack in 2019, and on the board of Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, which rewards climate action and environmentalism.
Ardern’s term as Prime Minister of New Zealand led to the creation of one of the most iconic leaders in modern times. Her astute leadership during times of crisis, her effective international diplomacy efforts and her example as a working mother make her an example to women all around the world. Her passionate vision of gender equality, progressive values and focus on the environment will be remembered by when she steps down as Prime Minister.