Over the past week, we have joined with whānau throughout the country in reacting to the news of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation as Prime Minister. Personally, it has prompted me to reflect on her time as the leader of our country, on the strong and gracious approach she has taken to navigating the series of unprecedented challenges she has faced – a terror attack, a global pandemic, the cost of living crisis. However, what has played on my mind most strongly is the way that she has been treated by certain groups and individuals – the abhorrent, personalised attacks about her character, her personality, her appearance and more.
I grew up in an era when women were encouraged to “have it all” – to juggle the pursuit of a fulfilling career and personal aspirations while simultaneously attempting to raise a family and run a household. I am one of these women myself, and I have written before about feeling spread too thin and the challenges of fitting everything into the finite hours of the day.
However, I also grew up in a culture where wāhine are celebrated for their indomitable strength and nurturing spirit. Within te ao Māori, women have never needed to “have it all” at the expense of their mental health and personal wellbeing. Instead, they are uplifted and supported by their communities, and their so-called “soft skills” are recognised as valuable wisdom and expertise rather than a distraction or triviality. Yet across the world, women who dare to step into leadership roles – whether that’s at the national level, or within their workplaces or community groups – are regularly subjected to undue criticism.
At times, it has seemed that Jacinda Ardern could not win. Whatever announcement she made was sure to be the opposite of what some people wanted, even when the rest of the country supported it. Of course, that is the nature of politics – you can never please everyone, and the minority often make a lot more noise than the majority. Furthermore, no political leader is perfect and she is no exception to this. However, I do not think that any other political leader in New Zealand has been subjected to the same insults, condemnation and even death threats that she has experienced over the past five years. No one – Prime Minister or not – deserves this treatment, and I am saddened to think of the toll it has taken.
As Jacinda Ardern steps down as Prime Minister, I hope she and her whānau have the opportunity to spend some much-needed time together after five years in office. I am also hoping that as a society, we can come together to focus on the positives of this time – the humility, compassion and grace she brought to the role, the aroha with which she approached the people and communities she interacted with. This is the power of mana wāhine, something that has been recognised and celebrated within te ao Māori for generations. Me aro koe ki te hā o Hine-Ahu-One – pay heed to the dignity of women.
Over the past week, our team have been travelling throughout the motu for our Wave 17 roadshows. We hold these events every January and we always look forward to the opportunity to get out into the community and connect with whānau. It’s been amazing to see a mix of new and familiar faces turning up to each event, and to hear the inspiring ideas for new kaupapa – we cannot wait to see these ideas become reality as applications start rolling in.
We still have a few more roadshows to go, so if you are living in Waitaha, Otago or Murihiku and interested in learning more about Wave 17, check out the map below to see when we’ll be in your rohe, and click here to register head along to catch up with our team.