'Democracy can be fragile': New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern pays glowing tribute to the late Benazir Bhutto

Updated 27 May, 2022 07:41pm

Images Staff

She shared fond memories of the former premier during a speech at Harvard University's commencement ceremony.

Photo: AP, The Boston Globe
Photo: AP, The Boston Globe

We love seeing women support women, so we loved seeing New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paying homage to the late Benazir Bhutto, the first and only woman prime minister of Pakistan, in her speech at Harvard University's commencement ceremony.

On Thursday, New Zealand's premier took the stage at Harvard University to speak to graduates. While she appreciated some of her country people being a part of the ceremony as graduating students, she spoke more about her "connection" to the late Benazir.

"In June 1989, the prime minister of Pakistan stood on this spot and delivered the commencement address titled Democratic Nations Must Unite. She spoke about her journey, the importance of citizenry, representative government, human rights and democracy," began Ardern.

She also added her personal experience of meeting Benazir in Geneva in June 2007. Ardern described it as a conference that drew together "progressive parties from around the world", Benazir being one of them. "Seven months later, she was assassinated. Now there will be opinions and differing perspectives written about all of us as political leaders. Two things that history will not contest about Benazir Bhutto — she was the first Muslim female prime minister elected in an Islamic country when women in power was a rare thing. She was also the first to give birth in office," she said.

"The second and only other leader to have given birth in office, almost 30 years later, was me," said Ardern. She shared that her daughter, Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford, was born on on June 21, 2018, Benazir's birthday.

"The path she carved as a woman feels as relevant today as it was decades ago. And so too is the message she shared here in this place. She said partway through her speech in 1989 the following, 'We must realise that democracy can be fragile.' Now I read those words as I sat in my office in Wellington, New Zealand, a world away from Pakistan. And while the reasons that gave rise to her words then were vastly different, they still ring true."

Ardern appreciated what Benazir said 33 years ago and believed that indeed, "democracy is fragile".