Over 200 guests were present to hear a discussion about women in leadership and to open Ardern spoke about many women who don’t see themselves as leaders.
“The women I met in Tonga who were organising the response to Cyclone Gita, they probably don’t see themselves as leaders, rather they probably see themselves as women who are answering the needs of the community,” she said. She also spoke about an experience as a high school student, when her mother worked at her school canteen and earned less than her as a supermarket checkout girl.
“We went and talked about why she was worth just one more dollar an hour, in front of the Board of Trustees and they said no.
“That experience taught me that fighting on behalf of women is sometimes about the little things,” she said.
Ardern also made mention of the fight for pay equality back in New Zealand, something said she is continuing to fight for.
Ardern was joined on the panel by the speaker of parliament Niki Rattle, Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, former chief of staff at the office of the prime minister and Vaine Wichman, president of Cook Islands National Council of Women.
Wright-Koteka said she was humbled to be speaking in the company of such ‘awesome’ women and in particular honoured the women of the Cook Islands in politics.
“We have the highest number of women in parliament, these women have broken through the glass ceiling, this is something you yourself (Jacinda) have proven,” she said.
After the discussion both Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford were given gifts to commemorate their time in the Cook Islands and she spoke of the welcome they had both received.
“I have never experienced the generosity and hospitality we have experienced here in the Cook Islands.
“The warmest of thank you’s and thank you to the women of the Cook Islands for honouring us today.
To close it was suggested by Rattle that they give their baby a Cook Islands name.
Tiare if it is a girl and Tamatoa if it is a boy.
Following the conclusion of the event, Ardern flew out of Rarotonga later in the afternoon to end her Pacific Mission tour.