On the day after the Christchurch shooting, the image of Jacinda Ardern, head covered with a black headscarf overlaid with flowers reflected in a windowpane, became instantly iconic. It encapsulated her determination, empathy and willingness to act. And act she quickly did, tightening New Zealand’s gun laws and embarking on an international campaign to battle online hate-speech. Universally hailed for her determination, she has been held up as a model of how an international leader should act. The world’s press has praised as exemplary her handing of the Christchurch massacre and her decisions since the March 15th attack which left 51 people dead. From her dignified and respectful presence among the mourners of the Muslim community the day after the attack, to her decision never to pronounce the name of the attacker, to her composure addressing parliament on the issue of gun control, her grace under pressure has been there for the world to see. Because the influence of Jacinda Ardern goes far beyond the borders of her homeland, and not just because of Christchurch. She is also a feminist icon who, at 37, became the youngest ever leader of the New Zealand Labour party and who, mere months after giving birth, brought her daughter with her to a sitting of the United Nations general assembly in New York. A former Mormon who left the church in order to support LGBT rights, she became the first New Zealand prime minister to march in Auckland’s gay pride parade.
Indeed, she reached such heights of popularity that the press in New Zealand spoke of ‘Jacindamania’. Though not yet 40, Ardern, from the small town of Morrinsville located 85 miles south of Auckland, has a long history in politics, having joined the Labour party as a teenager, spent two years in the British Labour party’s policy division under Tony Blair and become a member of the New Zealand parliament at 28. Less than one month after the Christchurch shootings, a law formally banning military-style semi-automatic weapons came into effect in New Zealand.
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