By Julia Taliesin
On Oct. 26, Jacinda Ardern was sworn in as the prime minister (PM) of New Zealand. At 37 years old, Ardern is the youngest female world leader.
Ardern took over leadership of the Labour Party only three months before the election. The left-wing party had been struggling, lagging behind other parties in the polls. When Ardern began to lead, they pulled ahead. The Telegraph attributed the party’s success to Ardern’s charisma, coining the phenomenon “Jacindamania” and comparing her to Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron.
The anti-immigrant party, New Zealand First, announced they will ally themselves with the Labour Party to form a center-left coalition. The BBC reported that this coalition may mean cuts to immigration quotas, and that Ardern’s most significant challenge would be holding the coalition together. This coalition will also be supported by the Green Party.
Ardern started out as a researcher for former New Zealand PM Helen Clark and as a policy advisor for former United Kingdom PM Tony Blair. She also has experience managing a large international non-governmental organization. She joined the Labour Party at 17 years old, and was elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 2008.
Ardern has been open about her struggles with anxiety and mental health. Ardern has mentioned that her anxiety made her unsure about taking on the leadership of a country. But now, The Guardian reported, she feels differently.
“You can’t ask other people to believe you and vote for you if you don’t back yourself,” Ardern said. “Every day is the proof point that I’ve got what it takes to do this.”
Ardern ran on a platform promising to decrease child poverty rates, to improve rights for women and LGBTQ individuals, and to tackle inequality, student debt, and affordable housing. The Telegraph reported that Ardern left the Mormon Church in 2005 because her support of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage conflicted with their beliefs. She voted in favor of the 2013 bill to legalize marriage equality, and has also voted to decriminalize abortion and liberalize abortion law.
Ardern has further promised to make 50 percent of her caucus women: “I have great ambition as a woman and as prime minister elect that we will make great gains as a government in issues like equal pay, in issues like supporting women in the roles they choose to take, whether they be work or in caring roles. I hold that issue close to my heart.”