New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has become the country’s first leader to march in the annual Auckland Pride parade.
Ardern (pictured, centre) cut a rainbow ribbon to officially open the event on Saturday, which reportedly attracted a crowd of between 25,000 and 30,000 people.
She said she had participated in the parade numerous times before becoming prime minister but “this one was particularly special.”
“The fact we live in a country where we shut down the streets to celebrate diversity, and that we can tell a generation of young people that they live in a place that is inclusive and supportive of who they are, is something I hope we keep doing. I know I will,” she told the New Zealand Herald.
The event was a great opportunity to celebrate diversity and connect with young people, some of whom experience significant mental health issues, she told the crowd.
“Bullying, a sense that you cannot be who you are in certain environments… we do still need to be worried about that,” she said.
“Those people are growing up all over New Zealand. They need to feel safe and supported.”
Auckland Pride organiser Shaughan Woodcock said it was the first time a prime minister had marched in the parade and Ardern’s involvement demonstrated New Zealand was a world leader in LGBTIQ rights.
“The parade is an opportunity to celebrate who we are and to advocate for our rights, as well as connecting and building relationships between business and our communities,” Woodcock told Stuff.co.nz.
“It’s extremely concerning that many countries continue to deny our human rights. While there are still changes to be fought for, I’m proud to live in a country that largely accepts people for who they are.”
The Auckland Pride march, now in its sixth year, featured more than 70 floats encompassing local LGBTIQ groups, political parties, universities and businesses.
The parade was led by a large peace bird constructed from hundreds of rainbow aluminium rods, representing the festival’s 2018 theme of “Rainbow Warriors: Pride and Peace,” which calls for “peace, love and unity at a time of escalating global unrest.”
The parade marks the final celebration for the two-week long Auckland Pride Festival, which this year featured more than 80 entertainment and discussion events.
(Top photo via Facebook)