Leading the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacinda Ardern and KK Shailaja have become infamous for taking strict measures to save lives – unlike their male counterparts.
Why Jacinda Ardern AND KK Shailaja?
Because unlike their male counterparts such as US President Donald Trump, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, or UK Health Minister Matt Hancock, both Jacinda Ardern as the Prime Minister of New Zealand and KK Shaijala as the Health Minister for Kerala, have deployed robust policies, compassionate but clear messaging, zealous lockdown and tracking efforts, and displayed true leadership which valued first and foremost, the lives of the peoples they are responsible for governing.
The result? Both New Zealand and Kerala have had the lowest number of Covid-19 contracted cases or deaths on the planet, and are now, day by day, returning back to normal.
And since we couldn’t decided between these two phenomenal women, we decided both had to be our joint Herstory Makers of the month.
What Jacinda did…
Whilst most countries around the world continue to battle daily death tolls resultant of the Covid-19 pandemic, New Zealand has had less than 2,000 cases, and is now reporting daily consecutive declines in people with the virus. As the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern has been praised around the world for her efforts against the pandemic, which range from closing all the country’s borders in mid March and declaring a complete nationwide lockdown, to holding press conferences for children to alleviate fears.
Her consistently empathetic, straight-forward and clear daily video messages which included hosting Q&A sessions from home, safeguarded the country from confusions which could have led to deaths. Meanwhile, her refusal to follow the ‘herd community’ method of defence, meant she struck out solo from fellow leaders in other parts of the world.
As she stated:
“Some countries talked about herd immunity as a strategy. In New Zealand we never ever considered that. Herd immunity would have meant 10s of 10000s of New Zealanders dying & I simply would not have tolerated that.”
As of the beginning of May, life in New Zealand is returning to normalcy with more relaxations being granted each day.
What Shailaja did…
As the health minister for the state of Kerala in India, KK Shailaja has set a landmark example for other nations to follow.
Nicknamed the ‘Coronavirus Slayer’ and ‘Rockstar Health Minister’, the former teacher has been widely praised for staying ten steps ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking lightening quick steps to track and respond quickly to the growing number of cases in China, and listening to the experts on her teams.
Thanks to her readiness, strict guidelines, and tracing efforts, to date, Kerlala has reported only 524 cases of Covid-19, four deaths and no community transmissions. Which, in a state containing over 35 million people with one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world (a GDP average of only £2,200, in comparison to the UK’s GDP per capita of £33,100), is truly remarkable.
But Shailaja has an astounding track record for dealing with deadly viruses head on.
In 2018, her handling of an even deadlier viral disease called Nipah led to the creation of a 2019 film called Virus, in which she is hailed as the country’s heroine. Praised not only for her proactive response, she continues to be celebrated for having the courage to go straight to the village at the centre of the outbreak to instruct its peoples on how to safeguard themselves, alleviate fears and prevent a mass exodus.
“I rushed there with my doctors, we organised a meeting in the panchayat [village council] office and I explained that there was no need to leave, because the virus could only spread through direct contact…When we explained that, they became calm – and stayed.”