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Anything a man can do, a woman can do better: Jacinda Ardern

On the 15th of March, the whole world watched in horror as the event of the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand unfolded. The attack left 50 Muslim worshippers dead and many more wounded. Having taken place in New Zealand, one of the world’s most benign and peaceful nations, the atrocious event left the whole world shocked by how quickly and violently extremism is gaining traction. In the days following the shooting, however, a beacon of hope shone amidst all the horror. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s then and current Prime Minister, showed her country how a true leader acts in times of national crises as the whole world watched in awe. 

Within hours of the incident, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the event what it was at a time when most of the western world refused to: a terrorist attack. This silenced any arguments regarding it being a “lone wolf” incident. Four days after the attack, during her speech in parliament, Ardern pointedly refused to mention the attacker’s name saying, “He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.” Her choice of language has mattered greatly. It reiterated the fact that she stood with the Muslim community in their time of crisis and encouraged the world to remember the victims and not the perpetrator.  

It wasn’t just her words that had a powerful impact, however, and the day right after the attack proved that a picture really is worth a thousand words. Pictures of Jacinda Ardern, the non-Muslim leader of a western nation, in a headscarf consoling families affected by the attack in Christchurch sent a clear message of solidarity and unity that a thousand speeches would’ve failed to communicate. In a time where the right wing is on the rise in the West and the vilification of Islam a news media favorite, Ardern went against the current and showed the world that humanity will always come first. The grief that she was so clearly stricken with during all her appearances throughout the whole ordeal showed the whole world that this was a genuine woman and leader, acting on intuition. The rage and anger that clearly drove her proved that she truly was one and the same as her people and what touched them touched her. 

When she expedited gun law reforms immediately after the attack, she proved that she isn’t just a woman of appearances but also one of action. The USA has been plagued by its gun problem for years and years now and not a single president in office has been able to pass gun law reforms and solve the problem once and for all, but Ardern showed them how it’s done. I don’t recall ever seeing a leader handle a national catastrophe with such authenticity and empathy, especially not when a minority is the target of said catastrophe. So what makes Jacinda Ardern so different? In my opinion, it is the fact that she is a woman. Despite living in a world where women leaders can be counted on the fingers of a hand, Jacinda Ardern proves it’s not because women aren’t capable but because we live in an unfair patriarchy that has set the idea that they aren’t capable into stone. 

Issues very similar to the Christchurch shooting have been popping up in countries all around the world but not once have we seen any leader tackle them so admirably as Ardern. The level of understanding and empathy that she showed while dealing with the problem could only have been brought forward by a woman. Being nurturers by nature, women tend to solve problems by addressing emotions and channeling them in the proper direction rather than the male way of using fists or flawed reasoning. Being emotional is something that is held against women as a weakness all the time and is sometimes the argument used against women in leadership positions, but Jacinda Ardern managed to show the whole world that it is actually a strength. By being on the ground since day one to mourn with her people and engage them in conversation regarding what could be done to make things better, she highlighted women’s ability to listen and identify with others. She could’ve acted on her own without counseling the community impacted by the crisis, as it is very common to see from other world leaders, but she had the humility to take suggestions and let the victims be the authors of their suffering rather than hijack the narrative. These are all qualities that are lacking in the majority of world leaders, most of which if not all, are men. 

Whenever a crisis of a humanitarian nature is sprung on the world, the response from world leaders is never good enough. When Syria fell into a war that left hundreds of thousands of refugees in the largest refugee crisis since World War II, the world stood idly by. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, however, did not. She stood alone against the catastrophe and opened the doors of Germany to those seeking refuge despite heavy criticisms of her “welcome all” policy. Despite her popularity taking a hit amongst German citizens, she kept her resolve to host as many refugees as possible by saying “we will cope”. In the time of a humanitarian crisis, where hundreds of thousands escaped their homes and embarked on dangerous and treacherous journeys because their homes were no more, Angela Merkel chose to do the right thing rather than turn a blind eye like the rest of her European counterparts and her name will go down in history for it. Was her gender the reason behind such a humane and admirable decision? One can’t help but wonder if it was.     

We live in a world that is riddled with hate and violence. Collectively, the world is scared and anxious. Change is needed. There needs to be a change in the way organizations, governments, and countries are structured. Feminine leadership is needed. We need more women in leadership positions because compassion, understanding, and empathy are needed now more than ever. We need, as humanity, to learn from our past mistakes and realize that thousands and thousands of years of masculine arrogance and impulsivity have done very little good to the world. We need to capitalize on women’s ability to cooperate, collaborate, and sympathize. Gone should be the days where women are dismissed to lesser roles for being too emotional. In the current climate, we need more leaders who dare to refer to their emotions when it comes to decision-making. In the current climate, we need more women leaders. We need more Jacinda Arderns.