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A milestone for women’s rights
By Jerry Brownstein
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first elected leader in history to take maternity leave. Ardern took office in October, 2017 after a rapid political rise that saw her approval ratings rise to historic heights. Three months later she announced that she was pregnant with her first child and intended to take maternity leave. Her partner, Clarke Gayford, will be a stay-at-home dad for their daughter. The 38-year-old Ardern gave birth to her daughter in June of 2018, and the Deputy Prime Minister assumed her duties during for the six weeks that she was off. The prime minister has downplayed the challenges of her dual role as world leader and new mother, noting that she is “not the first woman to work and have a baby.” Yet she has been widely hailed as a trailblazer.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark says that this is a significant step for women everywhere. “New Zealand is showing that no doors are closed to women, that having a baby while being prime minister can be managed, and that it's acceptable for male partners to be full-time care-givers. This is very positive role modelling for the empowerment of women and for gender equality.” Prime Minister Ardern returned to work saying that she was completely ready to tackle important issues like employment, the economy and the environment.