Society

“With such a privileged role comes responsibility" – New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern To Step Down

As a leader Ms. Ardern's tenure has has been a shining example of gender parity in politics, here The Stack World takes a closer look at her legacy

By Hannah Connolly

19 January 2023
J

acinda Ardern has shocked the global community after announcing she is stepping down as prime minister of New Zealand saying she no longer has “enough in the tank” to lead the country.

Ardern has said she had taken time to reconsider her future across the summer of 2022, and had hoped to recharge her energy to continue in the position: “unfortunately I haven't, and I would be doing a disservice to New Zealand to continue,” she told reporters.

“I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple,” she added.

Ms Ardern will be stepping down by the 7th February, whilst Labour MPs will vote on her replacement on Sunday 22nd of this month.

Ardern steered New Zealand through the Covid-19 pandemic and following economic recession, as well as the Christchurch mosque shootings and the White Island Volcanic eruption all during her tenure.

Also saying to press: “These events… have been taxing because of the weight, the sheer weight and continual nature of them. There’s never really been a moment where it’s ever felt like we were just governing.”

Across her premiership, Ardern and her government have made seismic steps in the name of gender equity on the global leadership stage. In 2017 she became the youngest female head of government in the world, as well as being just one of two elected world leaders to have ever given birth whilst in office.

In 2022, New Zealand made further history by joining just six other nations globally with a parliament composed of more women than men. Soraya Peke-Mason, a member of the Liberal Labour Party, tipped the balance in October, replacing former speaker Trevor Mallard.

“Whilst it’s a special day for me, I think it’s historic for New Zealand,” said Peke-Mason to reporters after being sworn in.

Since 1959 (the year the first woman was democratically elected to a leadership position), just 63 countries out of 195 have seen positions of executive power held by women

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the other nations with at least 50 per cent female representatives or more are Cuba (53 per cent), Nicaragua (51 per cent), Rwanda (61 per cent), Mexico (50 per cent) and the UAE (50 per cent).

Peke-Mason’s political career began with six years serving on the Rātana community board, followed by 12 years on the Rangitikei district council where she supported initiatives that supported the farming sector, tourism and small businesses. Peke-Mason is also the Chair of her tribe Ngāti Rangi in Ohakune, which is situated on the North Island of the country.

Although the gender balance tipped in the most recent December by-elections to 59:60 (women to men), New Zealand remains a leader for equity on the international stage. Globally, on average, women make up just 26 per cent of all national parliaments.

Progress has been observed elsewhere, the UK also marked its own significant move towards parity last year, with an all-time high for female representation in the House of Commons. Though the percentage still sits 15 per cent below the halfway mark.

Globally, marginal signs of improvement are being seen with the proportion of women in the world’s parliamentary bodies increasing by 0.6 per cent in 2022, in line with the past two years of minor increases, according to the latest IPU data.

However, UN women warned in September 2022 that if current rates continue at the same levels, gender equality in the highest positions will not be achieved for another 130 years.

The addition of Peke-Mason to parliament was just one of the latest installment in a legacy of international precedence for New Zealand. In 1893, it became the first country to grant some women the right to vote, and Jacinda Ardern became the third woman to take the poll position so far. Ardern is now considered the most popular PM in 100 years, largely due to her response to the pandemic.

Since 1959 (the year the first woman was democratically elected to the leadership position), just 63 countries out of 195 have seen positions of executive power held by women, accounting for 77 individual appointments over six decades – representing fewer than two additions a year.

Women also take up the helm in other key seats. Including, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Dame Helen Winkelmann, Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro and Nanaia Mahuta, who became the first indigenous woman to represent the country in this position.

The New Zealand government is also widely celebrated as setting a leading example in other areas of representation beyond only gender. Currently, the NZ parliament is made up of 25 per cent Māori and 15 per cent Paci c People, a higher rate than the country’s general population of Native People, as well as 11 per cent of parliamentary members being openly LGBTQ.

In August of 2022 the United Nations released a statement from Geneva calling on states to ensure leadership roles for indigenous women, citing their participation as a “powerful tool to mitigate against the catastrophic impacts of climate change,” through being “active agents in society and champions of sustainability”.

Adding: “Indigenous women are the custodians of a collective accumulation of scientific knowledge and technical skills related to food and agriculture, health and medicine, natural resource management, climate change, language, arts, crafts and spiritual practices.”

The Short Stack

This article is from the second edition of the Stack World Newspaper. Header Image: @jacindaardern, celebrating Apprenticeship Boost Program [Image] Instagram.

By Hannah Connolly

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