This morning, the world woke up to the shocking news of the demise of Kenya’s Prof Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace prize. Many people, in Africa and globally, see Wangari Maathai as an icon of hope and inspiration. She became a key figure in Kenya as a result of her passionate campaigns for environmental conservation and good governance.
Born April 1 1940, Wangari Muta Maathai was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya. In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights.
In 1984, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005.- Wikipedia
“Honouring her in 2004, the Nobel awarding committee praised Maathai for taking “a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular”.- AfricasiaNews
WANGARI MAATHAI –RIP: This is the last image I ever captured of Wangari Maathai at the Serena Hotel, Kampala on 6/4/2010 before she passed on at the Nairobi Hospital with Cancer on September 25, 2011. I remember her speaking with such authority alongside two other women laureates. It was a press conference organized by the Nobel Women Initiative to magnify the power and visibility of women working in countries around the world for peace, justice and equality. Here are a few facts to note about Wangari.
– Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her actions to promote sustainable development, democracy and peace.
-She is the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
-The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree
– Member of the National Council of Women of Kenya from 1976 to 1987
-In 1976 she introduced the idea of community-based tree planting
-Founded Green Belt Movement that has assisted women in planting more than 40 million trees on community lands including farms, schools and church compounds.
-I n December 2002, Prof. Maathai was elected to Kenya’s parliament with an overwhelming 98 percent of the vote.
– From 2003 to 2007 Prof. Maathai served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya’s ninth parliament.
-In September 1998, Prof. Maathai launched and become co-chair of the Jubilee 2000 Africa Campaign, which advocates for canceling the debts of poor African countries.
– She is the author of three books; an autobiography, Unbowed, and an explanation of her organizational method, The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience. Her newest book, The Challenge for Africa was released in April 2009.
Some inspiring advice to change makers all over the world:
“I will be a hummingbird” – Wangari Maathai- Watch Video
Wangari Maathai came, she saw and she conquered. May her soul rest in peace! You can sum up the many values she is today celebrated for in many ways… an eco-friendly society and good governance is possible!