Dressed in a navy blue attire with a black scarf wrapped around her head, Jacinda Ardern hugged a mother who had lost her son in the Christ Church attacks in New Zealand. She met and shook hands, hugged and cried with every family of the 50 people who lost their lives in the 2019 terror attacks.

What makes Jacinda Ardern so compassionate? Let us examine a few facts about her life first to put things into perspective.

The first time around when Ardern became New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister at age 37, she counted every day of her office. She announced (and delivered) spending NZ$2.6m on a scheme that would provide free sanitary products (aka tampons, pads, menstrual cups, etc) to schools in an effort to tackle period poverty. Even though Ardern became the world’s second elected head of government to give birth while in office (after Benazir Bhutto) when her daughter was born on 21 June 2018, she was back in office soon enough.

Less than a month after the Christ Church terror attacks, she banned the use of military-style semi-automatics, urging the people to remember those who died instead of remembering the name of the attackers. She became the first Prime Minister to have walked the LGBTQ+Pride event in March 2018.

However, her compassion is rooted in her ability to normalize imperfection and motherhood. In her interview to The Australian Woman’s Weekly, she said, “I’m very open about the things that I find tough about being a mum and being in this role. If we’re thinking about what we can do for the next generation, we can show them that you don’t have to be perfect.”

Ardern’s handling of Covid-19 became an example

One of the biggest strategies that made New Zealand an example to the rest of the world during Covid-19 was Ardern’s decision to close borders amid 0 reported cases. Unlike several other leaders, she directly addressed New Zealanders with empathy, calling them to join hands in eliminating the disease. During her televised speech about handling Covid-19, she tried to soothe the citizens’ anxiety while also firmly announcing her decision about self-isolation rules and lockdown. BBC reported that in late March 2020, New Zealand had a clear four-stage alert system that efficiently indicated current risks and the necessary social distancing measures. By September 2020, mask restrictions were eased, while until May 2021, only 26 Covid deaths and 2,742 cases were reported in the country. New Zealand is now mask-free with 9% of the population fully vaccinated.

Gender equality in New Zealand

Under Ardern’s leadership and her strong stand for gender equality, New Zealand has included gender equality, the empowerment of women and the human rights of women and girls in Agenda 2030. UN Women resources state that the country has “developed a National Action Plan to implement United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, which focuses on the participation and leadership of women, including by improving international deployment rates of senior staff within the New Zealand Defense Force and New Zealand Police; and support in relevant development assistance targeting leadership in the Pacific.”

On her 41st birthday in July 2020, Ardern’s face accompanied a dozen other Lego faces of superheroes including Batman, Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. Though she has said that she is just a mother and not a superhero, we all know she is no less.

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