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Celebrity News

The women who shape New Zealand: Helen Clark

Iconic and influential Kiwi woman Helen Clark shares her inspirations, triumphs and failures, and reveals what it took to become who she is.

By Morgan Johnston
Helen Clark
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Head of the United Nations Development Programme & former prime minister.*One of New Zealand’s longestserving prime ministers, and our first elected female PM, Helen holds the third top role at the UN. She is a member of the Order of New Zealand (ONZ) and has previously been voted Greatest Living New Zealander.
Who are the New Zealand women who you believe have most shaped our nation? Kate Sheppard, leader of the women’s suffrage movement; Elizabeth McCombs, first elected woman member of parliament; Iriaka Ratana, first Maori woman member of parliament; Mabel Howard, first woman cabinet minister; and Dame Cath Tizard, first woman governor-general and mayor of Auckland.
Who is/was the most important female mentor in your life?
My mother, Margaret Helen Clark.
What is the best advice you were given as a young woman? To carry on my education as far as I could.
What do you wish you had known at age 20? Not to waste any time – life is too short for that.
What/who is your greatest inspiration now? Nelson Mandela – for a lifetime of sacrifice, leadership and belief.
What is the achievement in your career you are most proud of? Being prime minister of New Zealand for nine years.
What do you believe is the biggest hurdle women still face in their careers and home life? Achieving work-life balance – which is hard, whatever one’s income level, for a range of reasons.
Through your work now with the UNDP, what do you believe New Zealand women should be most grateful for or proud of? Enjoying full, equal rights under the law and living in a country which is not mired in armed violence.

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