By Michelle Nichols
UNITEDNATIONS (Reuters) – At the United Nations this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has to contend with some daunting challenges – her debut before world leaders and the sleep schedule of her 3-month-old baby.
The 38-year-old Ardern has made global headlines since coming to power last October when she became only the second elected leader to give birth while in office, after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990.
She is not only her country’s youngest premier, but the first to take maternity leave while in office, and is widely seen as a symbol of progress for women.
As she prepared for her first U.N. address on Thursday, she also had the daunting task of traveling halfway round the world with a baby. Nearly 130 leaders and dozens of ministers will be at U.N. headquarters this week.
Ardern, who is breastfeeding and cannot be away from her baby for extended periods, will be accompanied by her partner, Clarke Gayford, who acts as daughter Neve Te Aroha’s full-time caregiver.
“I’m lucky. I have an incredible support network around me. I have the ability to take my child to work. There’s not many places you can do that,” Ardern told a Social Good Summit in New York on Sunday.
“Unless there is a culture that accepts that mothers and children are part of our workplaces, then we won’t change anything. So if I can do one thing and that is just change the way we think about these things, then I will feel pleased that we have achieved something,” she said.
When the event moderator remarked that the baby was backstage and very peaceful, Ardern quipped: “Wasn’t at 3:30 this morning.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additonal reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Wellington; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)