Jacinda Opts Out Of Political Limelight


Jacinda Ardern made headlines in 2017 when she became the world’s youngest, first female leader to become Prime Minister at the age of 37. In January of 2023, she shocked the world by becoming the first world leader to resign from her post as Prime Minister. As a politician, she has her reasons for her decision which she shared in a press conference that dominated the media worldwide.

She mentioned that she was honoured to have taken up that position but wanted to give up as it had taken a toll on her. As a human being this is another bold and courageous step for a leader, especially a premier, to take. Leaders are known to stick to power as long as they can. 

To resign from the post of a PM is not something witnessed by history especially in the way Jacinda Ardern did. She gave personal and professional reasons and instead of blaming anyone or any system she took up the responsibilities of her action on herself. This is a new model of leadership that should start being replicated globally. 

After Ardern’s resignation, instead of hailing her new model of leadership, a cliched stereotyped belief of patriarchy surfaced showing that its deep seated root is still prevalent even in one of the world’s most respected media. Even in 2023, human rights of people no matter which gender has not been internalised. This was seen after BBC tweeted a gendered title belittling Ardern. 

Controversial headline 

BBC is a highly respected media which has shown both in its staffing and coverage of issues that it is indeed inclusive. However, after Ardern’s resignation a story with the headline “Can women have it all?” was tweeted with a link to an article by BBC World, the UK broadcaster’s global newsroom indicates that sexist and misogynist mindset is still ingrained into the global system. Boris Johnson, father of seven, and a man who has been married thrice, resigned last year but BBC’s headline then was not gendered! After the headline was out, it was labelled as “staggering sexism” and BBC accused of “misogyny”.  

BBC withdrew the post and conceded it was wrong for writing about Ardern’s resignation with a gendered headline. The article was later changed to “Departure reveals unique pressures on PM.” There has been a global reaction over the BBC’s headline. Many condemned it with analysis on patriarchal value system still being very much prevalent on earth.

In 2017 after Jacinda became PM a sort of “Jacindamania” began to trend globally. She was often seen with world leaders like Joe Biden, Xi Jinping and royals like Prince Williams. In 2018 she became the first PM to give birth to a child and again made headlines saying that she hoped soon there would be more like her.

Ardern’s coming to power was hailed globally by progressives and she was universally praised for her leadership. After a massacre in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 when 51 Muslims worshippers were murdered by an Australian in two mosques her leadership and caring personality was noted as the person who nursed New Zealand through its darkest days. Her popularity escalated and she made to the cover of the Time magazine.  

Jacinda Ardern’s popularity globally was skyrocketing while in the domestic front criticism and the plummeting of the popularity of her party was being observed critically by her citizens. Cost of living was increasing and the crime was being reported to be increasing, people were also dissatisfied with very harsh COVID-19 lockdown measures she had imposed in the country.

The pandemic started creating havoc globally from the end of 2019 and in February 2020 New Zealand locked down its borders and enforced very strict measures in an ultimately futile effort to keep the COVID virus out of the country. 

The world started taking New Zealand’s policy led by Ardern as an exemplary model to contain the virus. The people in New Zealand initially did support her policies but slowly their dissatisfactions started being reflected by regular protests outside the parliament building in Wellington. According to a survey of November 2022 there was a 51 per cent divide regarding the COVID-19 response in the country. Therefore, although Ardern’s COVID tackling strategy in the beginning was hailed as an exemplary model, it is now being challenged within and outside the country. 

Global impact

Politicians from different parts of the world come and go. Some become global figures who impact the minds and systems in other countries than their own. Ardern has indeed had a global impact because of her different policies and most so by the way she resigned. First of all, being able to give up power and attribute it to the fact that she wants to give herself and her family quality time itself is a bold step no other leader has ever done before. While she spoke about her resignation in global media, millions of people admired her courage. 

She openly admitted she tried her best in her job as a PM but decided to leave as it was having a stressful impact over her.  Ardern’s leadership can be seen as a new model of leadership not one where the leaders need to be seen as “having it all” from a gendered perspective.

The ability to give up power based on not being able to handle it as a human being is a quality to be appraised of. The world needs to now start waking up to accept new styles of leadership as people of different age group, gender and communities start taking the driving seat as compared to the stereotyped leaders that have dominated the world. 

(Namrata Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate namrata1964@yahoo.com Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)

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