In 2004 the Kenyan women won as first African the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a pioneer in so many ways: “in 1971 she received a Ph.D., the first woman in east and central Africa to do so.” Also, “she became the first woman to chair a department at the University and the first to be appointed a professor.”
Wangari Maathai has left a big footprint on our planet, but one of the good kinds. In 1977 she established the Green Belt Movement, it “has since mobilized hundreds of thousands of women and men to plant more than 47 million trees, restoring degraded environments and improving the quality of life for people in poverty.”
She wrote on Climate Change: “Africa is the continent that will be hit hardest by climate change. Unpredictable rains and floods, prolonged droughts, subsequent crop failures and rapid desertification, among other signs of global warming, have in fact already begun to change the face of Africa.” She asked for action right now.
Fighting for respect for the environment and women’s and civil rights at the same time, she was an important figure in the civil society movement of Kenya, which finally led the country to its first free elections in 2002. In that year Wangari Maathai joined the Parlament. One year later, she was appointed Deputy Minister for the Environment. Find out more about her incredible life story here.
Professor Maathai also wrote four books: The Challenge for Africa, Unbowed: A Memoir, The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience, and Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World.
Wangari Maathai died this week at the age of 71. She will be remembered.