Inspiring Women, no 14: the former prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, applauds the career path of Norway's only female prime minister...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, special supplement
Helen Clark was the first woman to be elected prime minister of New Zealand, and is now an administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. Gro Harlem Brundtland (b. 1939) is a former prime minister of Norway—the first and so far only woman to hold the post—and a UN special envoy on climate change.
There are so many wonderful women—it’s tempting to nominate Joan of Arc, for example—but Gro Harlem Brundtland’s career path has more relevance for me and my times. We’ve met on a number of occasions, and I feel that if we were to sit down right now, we would agree on virtually everything.
I have always seen her as a highly empathetic figure. There are so many similarities. We both come from small developed countries with strong social democratic political parties and traditions, we both became leaders of our country’s Labour Party, and we were both long-serving prime ministers. After retiring from politics in her country, Gro Harlem became the head of the World Health Organisation, a United Nations organisation. I came to head the United Nations Development Programme after leaving New Zealand politics. Seeing Gro Harlem tread that path showed me that it could be done.
Gro Harlem has used her stature and her reputation grounded on substance to contribute to public-policy debate globally—the Brundtland Commission report on environment and development in 1987 was a huge step forward in defining sustainable development. She is still out there, using her wisdom and experience, showing that you don’t just give up a lifetime of activism and engagement. I hope that my life will continue to follow the path she has blazed—being out there, being engaged, sharing what I’ve learnt.
Read more from the Inspiring Women series: