On Monday, 3-month-old Neve Gayford became the first baby to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Her mother, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, is one of only two elected world leaders to have given birth while in office and the first to bring her baby into the U.N. assembly hall.
Little Neve even got her own temporary U.N. badge identifying her as “Ms. Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford.” In her ID photo, she appears fast asleep, snug in a blue knit baby beanie.
Ardern was slated to give a speech at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit for the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly. The 38-year-old prime minister could be seen cradling Neve when she was not speaking. While Ardern was at the podium, Arden’s partner, Clarke Gayford, held Neve in his lap. At other times, those sitting around the family were pictured smiling at and doting on the baby.
“I cannot stress how much the UN — and the governments that comprise it — need this,” tweeted Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Ardern gave birth to Neve in June and returned to work six weeks afterward. She has spoken out frequently about her desire to achieve work-life balance, declaring during her pregnancy that she was “not the first woman to work and have a baby.” Still, Ardern received some criticism earlier this month for taking a separate flight from her deputy to a Pacific islands summit so she could breast-feed Neve.
Before the trip to the U.N. General Assembly, Ardern told the New Zealand Herald that taxpayers would not be covering the cost of Gayford’s travel — and that they would be “playing it by ear” with the baby, who might simply end up at the hotel with her father, depending on how she handled jet lag.
“There is no spousal program for this, so we just made a judgment call that we would cover his travel for this trip. [Gayford] will be going to some things, but he’s primarily traveling to care for Neve,” Ardern told the newspaper. “There is no set plan; it’s just whether or not she’s getting enough sleep, where I am for feeds. . . . [Neve is] a good sleeper, and we don’t know whether that will mean she ends up sleeping a lot in the day rather than the night.”
Gayford said a Japanese delegation happened to walk into a meeting room while Neve was getting her diaper changed.
“I wish I could have captured the startled look,” Gayford tweeted. “Great yarn for her 21st.”
In her speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Ardern paid tribute to Mandela’s fight for equality, freedom and human rights and reiterated New Zealand’s commitment to those values. Mandela spent 27 years in prison in his native South Africa, then served as the country’s first black president in the 1990s after the dismantling of apartheid.
The first elected world leader to deliver a child while in office was Benazir Bhutto, who gave birth to daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari in 1990 while serving the first of two terms as Pakistani prime minister.
Ardern, Gayford and young Neve could be seen returning to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday morning.