New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern left the world in shock on Thursday, 19 January, as she announced that she would step down from her post next month, stating she no longer had "enough in the tank" to do justice to her job.
"I am human. We give as much as we can for as long as we can and then it's time. And for me, it's time," Ardern said.
Ardern has been quite the unconventional leader over the last six years – especially at a time when conservatism has been growing across the world.
Her politics "with a bit of heart" helped New Zealand get through the COVID pandemic and the Christchurch mosque shootings – one of the worst terrorist attacks the country has ever seen.
Ever since she took on the mantle in 2017 – becoming the youngest woman prime minister at age 37 – Ardern has changed perceptions about what a strong woman politician looks like, not only through her words but also through some of her actions.
The Quint takes a look at some of New Zealand's major decisions and policies that have stood out under her leadership.
Terror Attack & Gun Laws
On 15 March 2019, a lone gunman opened fire in two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch, killing 51 people and injuring 40 others.
Less than a week after the attacks on the mosque-goers, Ardern confirmed that post a legislation, all kinds of weapons that were used in the attack would be banned.
She said that people who had already bought the guns could avail of a buyback programme, where the government would buy the guns and destroy them forever.
Ardern had also covered her head with a scarf as she mourned with the bereaved Muslim families, offering a cue to others to wear headscarves in solidarity.
'Families Package' – While Cradling Her Own Baby
In 2018, Ardern, a new mother at the time, announced a 'families package' for New Zealanders via a Facebook live, while cradling her own baby, Neve.
The $5.5 billion package was expected to boost the incomes of an estimated 385,000 families by $75 a week by the time it's fully implemented, in 2020-21.
Four years later, in 2022, she announced a cost-of-living package for families battling surging inflation, saying that 2023 would be more difficult "in many ways than this year."
Under the said package, more than half of New Zealand's families with children became eligible for subsidised childcare assistance, including single parents.
Addressing Historic Inequity in Pay
New Zealand's Parliament, in 2020, unanimously passed an Equal Pay Amendment Bill, which ensures that workers are not paid less because of their gender.
The legislation not only ensures that men and women are paid the same for the same work, but also allows pay equity "by ensuring women in historically underpaid female-dominated industries receive the same remuneration as men in different but equal-value work," according to Global Citizen.
"In 2017 we said we'd fix the legislation aimed at addressing historic inequities in pay for women. Today, we have. This bill delivers on our promise to create a more equitable Aotearoa by making it easier for employees to raise a pay equity claim, and by encouraging collaborative mediation before issues are escalated to the courts."Jacinda Ardern, in an Instagram post
Climate Change: A Matter of 'Life & Death'
In 2019, New Zealand passed the landmark Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, establishing in law the country's target of net zero carbon emissions.
Two years later, Ardern referred to climate change as a matter of "life and death," and announced a new plan for the government's response to global warming – in the form of a report by the Climate Commission, an independent body set up to advise the government.
The report outlined what New Zealand must do if it wants to meet its target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
During her tenure, Ardern also took steps towards banning new offshore oil and gas exploration, phasing out single-use plastic bags, schools and hospitals to switch to cleaner energy, and making clean cars more affordable.
Four years ago, the Jacinda Ardern government released its first 'Well-being Budget' – a budget that placed health and well-being of people at the heart of policymaking.
The country has since released four Well-being Budgets.
The budgets aimed at tackling some of the long-term challenges that the country faces – like mental health, domestic violence, child poverty, housing, as well as supporting the aspirations of the Māori and Pasifika populations in NZ.
Free Period Products for All
In 2021, New Zealand announced that all schools in the country would offer free period products in a bid to end period poverty.
"Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population."Jacinda Ardern
The move aimed to address the issue of girl students sipping classes because they cannot afford period products like tampons and sanitary pads.
Walking the Pride
In 2018, Ardern became the first New Zealand Prime Minister to walk the pride parade. She was spotted dancing, taking selfies, and hugging members of the crowd – while also addressing the mental health issues faced by people from the LGBTQIA+ community.
"Ultimately this is a parade about diversity and inclusiveness. And I'm really proud of the work the team has done to make that real over the years and in our laws," Ardern told TVNZ.
"But we can't be complacent. As long as there are kids in New Zealand, if they are LGBTQI, if they have high levels of mental health issues or self harm, that tells us that we still have work to do," she added.
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