What You Need to Know About Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's Prime Minister

Her response to coronavirus has been touted as one of the most effective in the world.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Photo: Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is getting attention for all the right reasons. At age 39, Jacinda Ardern is the youngest prime minister of the island nation and one of the youngest female world leaders. With the coronavirus pandemic crippling the world, Ardern has earned accolades for her smooth, swift, and smart take on flattening the curve in New Zealand and her unapologetic approach to leadership — she even brought her baby to the UN General Assembly. Here's what you need to know about a rising star ready to take the spotlight on the world stage.

When did she take office?

Ardern assumed the office of prime minister on October 26, 2017. After graduating from school in 2001, she served as a researcher for Prime Minister Helen Clark. From there, she moved to the United Kingdom to work as a policy advisor to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In 2017, she was unanimously elected as Deputy Leader of NZ's Labour Party and won the general election that same year to become prime minister.

She's agnostic.

Though Ardern was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand, Ardern decided to leave the Mormon church in 2005. She cited the religion's views on gay rights as a major reason for her decision.

She was New Zealand's first prime minister to be pregnant in office.

Ardern announced that she was pregnant in January 2018 and gave birth to her daughter, Neve Te Aroha, in June, which made her the second elected head of government to do so while in office (Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was the first in 1990.). According to Newsweek, she became the first female head of government to attend the United Nations General Assembly with her baby present when she went in 2018.

She's engaged.

Ardern got engaged to television presenter Clarke Gayford in 2019. They met in 2012.

She gave a heartbreaking speech after the Christchurch mosque shooting.

In March 2019, in a day that Ardern described as "one of New Zealand's darkest days," 51 people were fatally shot and an additional 49 were injured in two mosques in Christchurch.

"Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have been impacted today. Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was their choice," she said. "The place they actively came to, and committed themselves to. The place they were raising their families, where they were part of communities who they loved and who loved them. It was a place that many came to for its safety. A place where they were free to practice their culture and their religion."

The shooting spurred the New Zealand government to reevaluate its firearms regulations and her handling of the tragedy earned her a spot on the shortlist for Time's 2019 Person of the Year.

She took a 20% pay cut.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the economy of New Zealand, Ardern took a 20% pay cut. She, along with "government ministers and public service chief executives," will take the reduced wages for six months, according to The Guardian.

"If there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now," she said.

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