“I am a person. Politicians are people. We give everything we can, as much as we can, so it’s time,” he said, explaining his decision in an emotional press conference. “I know what this job takes, and I know I don’t have enough in the tank to do it justice – it’s simple.”
At 37, Ardern became New Zealand’s youngest leader in more than 150 years when she was appointed Prime Minister in 2017.
She was seen as a refreshing addition to a largely male-dominated international scene, riding the island’s “Jacindamania” and leading New Zealand’s centre-left Labor Party as a liberal.
She will join a small group of former female leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Theresa May and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Like them, he also struggled with a number of sexual complaints.
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As a lawmaker in 2012, Ardern was told to “zip it, sweetie” by a fellow female politician – a term often used against her online after becoming Prime Minister.
Shortly after Ardern’s appointment, prominent New Zealand economist Gareth Morgan tweeted that he would have to prove he was more than “lipstick on a pig,” and criticized lawmakers and social media experts for the foul language.
During her time in office, she was nicknamed “Aunty Cindy” and referred to as a “child” and a “beautiful communist” by journalists and online commentators. A television reporter asked about her child’s pregnancy, and last year police investigated a strip club for using a nude photo of the child to promote its activities.
This week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson called her a “lady with big teeth” while discussing her resignation.
At a press conference in Auckland held by Ardern and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, a male journalist said the two leaders met because they were of the same age and gender, prompting Ardern to retaliate.
“A lot of people will be wondering: Do you two meet because you’re the same age and have a lot in common there – after you get into politics and stuff – or can Kiwis expect to see more between us? Two countries down the line?” a New Zealand Newstalk ZB reporter asked.
Ardern, looking a little incredulous, replied: “I doubt if anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were the same age,” referring to the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who was born five days after the former US. the president.
“Because two women meet, not because of gender,” he added.
When Ardern became Prime Minister in 2017, the media focused on her questioning whether she felt she had to choose between having children or a job, which she called discriminatory at the time.
In 2018, she became the second world leader in modern times to have a child while in office – following Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto – saying at the time that she was not “the first woman to do much.” Ardern took six weeks of maternity leave and then took her three-month-old daughter, Neve, to the UN General Assembly in New York.
Announcing her resignation from Napier, Ardern told reporters on Thursday that she hoped to spend more time with her family. She and her partner, Clarke Gayford, ended their marriage last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously, they are the ones who have made the most sacrifices for all of us,” Ardern said, before speaking to her daughter and friend. “So to Neve, Mom is looking forward to being there when you start school this year. And for Clarke, let’s get married.”
Women remain underrepresented in world politics, with only 28 countries represented by elected female leaders as of 2022, according to UN figures. “Currently, gender equality in the highest positions will not be reached for another 130 years,” UN Women said.
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In office, Ardern created the most diverse government in New Zealand’s history after winning the 2020 election, with more women, people of color, LGBTQ members of parliament than ever before.
Last year, New Zealand became the first developed democracy to have a majority-female parliament.
Ardern also supported the #MeToo movement for gender equality. His compassionate handling of a number of crises, including the coronavirus pandemic and the 2019 Christchurch terror attack on two mosques, has catapulted him to international prominence – although his popularity has waned in the face of strong opposition at home.
A self-proclaimed feminist, she once said she hopes to be remembered as “a good leader, not a good leader.” He also said: “I don’t want people to be known only as a woman who gave birth.”
Ardern said she would resign on Feb. 7.
Rachel Pannett, Michael E. Miller and Helier Cheung contributed to this article.