Jacinda Ardern Is An Inspiration To Fijians, Particularly Women, Girls

The affable NZ Prime Minister calm And collected despite political pressures at home. People remember her for her high interaction with them.
28 Feb 2020 15:09
Jacinda Ardern Is An Inspiration To Fijians, Particularly Women, Girls
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with women from Tamavua-i-Wai Village dring her visit on February 26, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar


She came and captured the hearts and imagination of many people in Fiji, especially women and girls.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flew to Australia yesterday leaving behind this unifying spirit of “they are us”.

Her personal touch and natural affection, brilliantly displayed when she decided to sit cross-legged with the people on the ground at Tamavua-i-wai in Suva, won her many Fijian hearts.

Touching people’s hearts

Yesterday at the Lautoka Jame Masjid Mosque, she made everyone feel the same love and compassion she showed in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shooting, which killed 51 people including three Fijians and injured many, almost a year ago.

She paraphrased those famous words “they are us” when referring to the victims of the shooting.

She said “they were yours and now they are part of us.”

The spirit of that powerful expression filled the mosque and beyond.

In her last official engagement, she made a cup of tea for the woman who was supposed to serve her after she opened the Nadi branch of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre.

Right throughout her four-day first official visit, she interacted with women from all walks of life in a programme designed to empower our women. And she did.

She was impressed with the number of women in Parliament, whom she met at a luncheon for women leaders at the New Zealand High Commission’s residence in Suva.

At the University of the South Pacific on Wednesday, mothers took their daughters to be inspired and empowered by her.

That was the pulling power that she commands. She touched people’s hearts with her simplicity and down-to-earth attitude. There was no pretence.

She got on well with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama because they have got a lot in common – at the top of the list is their ability to come down from their high office and connect with the people.

It made their bilateral talks easier – it was all about building and strengthening the two countries’ co-operation in a lot of areas, from defence to trade, to regional security and to climate change.

Unfazed by developments at home

Ms Ardern seemed unfazed by the developments at home in New Zealand on the coronavirus threat and water shortage in Auckland. Drought has dried up water tanks for more than 20,000 people in rural areas, who rely on the rain for their water supply.

Business people and farmers are concerned by not only the water shortage but the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. One television commentator says it does not make sense that NZ is giving Fiji aid when people in Auckland are suffering from a water shortage.

Ms Ardern is also faced with a housing crisis. Her Government has scrapped an ambitious target to build 100,00 homes in 10 years under its coalition’s flagship KiwiBuild scheme.

Across the Tasman, Ms Ardern flew into Australia to what could brew as a potential political storm.

Last year, she protested strongly against Australia’s deportation of criminals with almost no connection to New Zealand. She said then that it wasn’t “fair dinkum” and she would not let the issue go. She is expected to raise the issue again in this visit.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with women leaders from various sectors.  Photo: DEPTFO News

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with women leaders from various sectors.
Photo: DEPTFO News

Her commitment to our government’s global campaign

The other issue is on climate change. As an ally to Mr Bainimarama, Ms Ardern is expected to defend the stand she took in Tuvalu during the Pacific Islands Forum.

She had reaffirmed in Suva her commitment to back Mr Bainimarama’s global campaign.

In Tuvalu she supported Mr Bainimarama and the rest of the Pacific Island leaders on the final climate change resolution against Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who stood alone on the opposite side.

While these issues weigh heavily on her shoulders and knowing that she has to face a general election in September, she was calm and composed here.

From the start of her visit to the end, she maintained the same energy and vigour in her engagements.

When you study her history you can understand her position on issues like climate change.

She was born in agro-based Hamilton, raised in Morrinsville, a rural setting, after a stint in the small Bay of Plenty town of Murupara.

She was always  fighting for inequality. Her early instincts grew with her and drove her into politics. She used to ask why other children did not have what she had.

He joined the human rights group at school. She successfully convinced the Board of Trustee at Morrinsville College to allow girls wear trousers as part of the uniform.

So when she mixed and mingled with ordinary Fijians she was at home. She has left an indelible mark in the minds of Fijians.

They have not seen an overseas leader like her because of the way she interacted with them. They hope to see her again because she has promised to return.

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