Having one of the only Prime Ministers in history to give birth in office – happening in the same year as the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage – is a “wonderful, positive thing”, the Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter told Health Central.

Genter is also the Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for women’s health.

Asked if she expected heightened awareness of women’s health and maternity issues this year  – as a result of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expecting a baby – Genter replied “absolutely”.

“I hope that the Prime Minister’s pregnancy will really focus attention on the issues facing all new parents in New Zealand – like maternity care, paid parental leave, flexible-work arrangements and parents coming back to work,” said Genter.  “The government had already made families and children a really priority – and that was obvious with the first piece of legislation we passed with the extension of paid parental leave.”

She said it was also “pretty phenomenal” that the Prime Minister was going to have a baby in the same year New Zealand marks the 125th anniversary of becoming the first country to grant women the vote.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford announced this morning that they were expecting their first child in June and the pregnancy was a “happy surprise” as the pair had been told they would need help to become parents.  The Prime Minister plans to return to work six weeks after the baby is born with Gayford stepping in as full-time father and “where possible” Clarke would be travelling with her a lot.

Asked at a press conference whether the baby would make an appearance on her hip at question time Ardern joked “No, because Trevor Mallard would grab it”. But added that the Speaker of the House was encouraging a family-friendly environment in Parliament.

Genter also saw the Prime Minister’s pregnancy and return to work as a chance for Parliament to model family friendly practices.

“Ultimately it is up to us how we organise society and for too long we haven’t made the things that are really important the focus of government and society,” said Genter.

“Parliament is meant to represent the people of New Zealand. So its appropriate that the representatives and the people in Government are going through the same experiences and challenges that the average New Zealander goes through while they try to juggle work and family life.”  

“We know what is most important to people – are their families, their children and their loved ones but we tend to push it to the side and consider different types of work as more important but actually that is the work that is the heart that builds our society and raises children.”

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