Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Nobel Peace Prize 2019 favourites: New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern

The world’s youngest female prime minister oversaw gun control in her country and showed compassion towards the Muslim community after the horrifying Christchurch terrorist attacks

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s 40th prime minister, was catapulted into the international spotlight after the Christchurch terror attacks in March this year.

She was lauded at home and abroad for her compassionate yet firm response to the fatal shooting of 51 people at two mosques, which left another 49 injured.

In the aftermath, Ms Ardern moved quickly to lead parliament to strengthen what she described as weaknesses in the country’s gun control laws. Just weeks after the attack, lawmakers voted 119 to one to ban most automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

The prime minister has been widely quoted as having said that she “doesn’t understand” gun regulations in the United States.

Perhaps more importantly, she met with leaders of New Zealand’s Muslim community the day after the shootings, allocating as much time to speaking with members of the community as they saw fit.

"Our time is for you to determine," she said.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern attends the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York in September, 2019. AFP
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern attends the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York in September, 2019. AFP

She famously refused to elevate the platform of the white supremacist who carried out the attacks with the vow: “You will never hear me speak his name.”

Several emotive pictures of Ms Ardern donning a headscarf at the meeting with the leaders of Christchurch’s Muslim community flooded social media, with commentators saying they illustrated her ardent efforts to bring the mourning country together in the wake of the March 15 attacks.

"The human empathy and all those amazing human traits she’s showing in the picture, I’m glad people resonated with that," Kirk Hargreaves, the photographer of the most recognisable of those images, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper at the time.

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Born to a police officer and a mother who worked in a school canteen, Ms Ardern rode a wave of so-called “Jacindamania” in October 2017 to become the world’s youngest female prime minister.

Ms Arden graduated from the University of Waikato in 2001 with a Bachelor of Communication Studies in Public Relations and Political Science.

En route to becoming the leader of New Zealand’s Labour party in 2017, she reportedly spent time volunteering at a soup kitchen in New York and was part of an 80-person advisory team to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In 2018, Ms Ardern made headlines — and history — by becoming the first world leader to attend the United Nations General Assembly with her baby, Neve.

In September of this year, she was one of 15 women selected by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, to appear on the cover of British Vogue.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has described her chances of being awarded the prize as “most unlikely”. In a radio interview with The AM Show she explained that, “What people have suggested I be considered for is what I consider to be part of my role.”

Ms Ardern would be the first New Zealander to be awarded the prize.

Updated: October 9, 2019 03:46 PM

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