New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Is the First World Leader to Go on Maternity Leave
Ardern gave birth to her baby girl while in office.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given birth to a baby girl.
The leader announced the news on Facebook and Instagram on Thursday, sharing a photo from Auckland City Hospital with her partner and the “healthy” newborn, who weighed 7.3 pounds.
Ardern was admitted to hospital four days after her due date on Thursday morning, and gave birth at 4.45pm (4.45am GMT).
It’s only the second time in modern history that an elected leader has given birth while in office, according to the BBC. Benazir Bhutto was the first, when she gave birth as Pakistan’s prime minister in 1990.
But she’s the first world leader to ever go on maternity leave, a first that’s been hailed as a huge moment for gender equality and maternity rights around the world.
Ardern became leader of New Zealand's Labour Party just seven weeks before the general election on Sept. 23, 2017. She led them to victory, and after negotiating a coalition government, became her country’s youngest prime minister since 1856 at just 37 years old. Her pregnancy was announced in January.
Ardern will spend the next six weeks on maternity leave, with deputy prime minister Winston Peters temporarily taking the helm. However, she will reportedly continue to read cabinet papers and be consulted on important issues, such as national defence.
Television presenter Clarke Gayford, Ardern's partner, will then step into the role of “first bloke” and stay-at-home-dad — sending a powerful message worldwide that traditional models of gender-restrictive parenting need not define our future.
"I'm sure we're going through all of the emotions new parents go through,” Ardern said in an official statement. “But at the same time feeling so grateful for all the kindness and best wishes from so many people.”
World leaders have rushed to congratulate Ardern, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, leader of the British opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn, and former leader of New Zealand Helen Clark.
“These are the kinds of practical arrangements working women make the world over – the novelty here is that it is a prime minister who is making them,” said Clark in an opinion piece for the Guardian. “The signal this sends, however, is that this is life in the 21st century. Women can choose to combine family and career as Ardern has done.”
New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote 125 years ago — and has had three female prime ministers since. Clark added that she believes the southern hemisphere country will “continue to be a leader in the full inclusion of women in all spheres of its society.”
Congratulations to @jacindaardern & @NZClarke on the birth of their daughter 👶🏻today. What a proud day for Jacinda & Clarke & for us all. New life, new hope. Parenting arrangements are #genderequality in action. This is 21st C NZ. #ProudKiwi 🇳🇿 https://t.co/w52w8CJLSJ— Helen Clark (@HelenClarkNZ) June 21, 2018
It’s safe to say that Ardern has rocked her pregnancy — and has dropped the mic at numerous moments with her robust perspective on the changing role of women in the domestic sphere and world of work.
“I am not the first woman to multi-task,” Ardern said in an interview with Radio New Zealand. “I am not the first woman to work and have a baby — there are many women who have done this before.”
Now, it’s baby-naming time — something we get quite excited about at Global Citizen. Then it’s back to work leading her country.
Global Citizen campaigns on the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including for gender equality and improving maternal rights for mothers everywhere. You can join us and take action here.