New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern pregnant with first child

‘I’ll be a prime minister and a mum’: Announcement prompts outpouring of support

New Zealand's PM's pregnancy is one of the very few examples of an elected leader holding office while pregnant and represents a milestone in New Zealand's history. Video: Reuters

 

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has announced she is pregnant with her first child, making her one of only a handful of female political leaders to have a baby while in office.

Ms Ardern (37), a former policy adviser to Tony Blair, became one of her country’s youngest prime ministers and the third woman to lead a government there after the Labour Party’s election victory last year.

The prime minister confirmed the news via her Facebook page, adding that partner Clarke Gayford, a presenter of a television fishing and cooking show, will take up the mantle of stay-at-home dad.

“And we thought 2017 was a big year! Clarke and I are really excited that in June our team will expand from two to three, and that we’ll be joining the many parents out there who wear two hats. I’ll be Prime Minister AND a mum, and Clarke will be ‘first man of fishing’ and stay at home dad,” she wrote.

Ms Ardern said on Friday that Winston Peters, New Zealand’s deputy prime minister and leader of New Zealand First, would take over as acting prime minister for six weeks when the baby is born.

“I am not the first woman to work and have a baby. I know these are special circumstances but there are many women who have done it well before I have,” she told reporters.

Ms Ardern is the third female prime minister in New Zealand and has been a vocal advocate for getting more women to take part in politics. Ms Ardern told said in December that it was not good enough for women to be heard. “Women must be at the decision-making table,” she said.

Broad welcome

Ms Ardern’s announcement of her pregnancy was welcomed by women’s rights groups, politicians and labour activists.

Opposition leader Bill English congratulated Ms Ardern.

“Mary and I would like to extend our sincere congratulations to prime minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford on the news of the prime minister’s pregnancy,” the former prime minister said.

“It is an incredible privilege to be a parent. A new child will bring real joy to their lives.”

The New Zealand election in September ushered in the first Labour-led coalition in almost a decade, with the party in October forming a coalition with the nationalist New Zealand First party. Ms Ardern has focused on delivering public services as well as toughening immigration and foreign ownership rules.

Very few female political leaders have given birth to a child while in office. In 1990 Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s then prime minister, gave birth to a daughter.

During the 2017 election campaign, Ms Ardern was asked by a radio show host about whether she had plans to have a baby, sparking nationwide debate about sexism.

Ms Ardern said she had elected to talk about the issue but it was “totally unacceptable” in 2017 for employers to question women about their plans to have children. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018