Wangari Maathai
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Wangari Maathai
Introduction to the life of Kenyan environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor and human rights advocate.
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Abstract

Abstract | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it

An innovative and powerful woman, Wangari Maathai transformed Kenya and Africa through her leadership in sustaining the environment, empowering women, and advocating for human rights. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, whose mission is “to mobilize community consciousness- using tree planting as an early entry point- for self-determination, equity, improved livelihoods and security, and environmental conservation” (Green Belt). Through planting more than forty-seven million trees in Africa, over 900,000 women were empowered, erosion was fought, and firewood for fuel was created. Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations’ environmental program said, “Wangari Maathai was a force of nature.” He then likened her to an acacia tree, “strong in character and able to survive sometimes the harshest of conditions” (Gettleman).

 

Maathai traveled the world, giving presentations on environmental degradation and poverty. In 2004, she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace” (Gettleman). Despite being called subversive by former Kenyan president Daniel arp Moi, Wangari Maathai served as a member of parliament and assistant minister on environmental issues, after Moi stepped down from the presidency.


Sadly, Wangari Maathai passed away on September 25, 2011, after her long struggle with ovarian cancer. The Green Belt Movement is now working on the “I am the Hummingbird Campaign,” an international tree planting campaign to plant one billion trees in memory of Wangari Maathai.

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The Green Belt Movement

The Green Belt Movement | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it

After receiving her PhD, Wangari Maathai became involved in many human rights and environmental organizations, particularly the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). She became a representative for women’s academics, and she traveled to rural areas to speak with women. Through this experience, she learned about the challenging environmental and social circumstances facing these poor and rural women and their families. Many lacked firewood for heating and cooking, food, and clean water.

 

Maathai’s idea of planting trees emerged, and she moved on to establish the Green Belt Movement: “the trees would provide wood for cooking, fodder for livestock, and material for fencing; they would protect watersheds and stabilize the soil, improving the agriculture” (Green Belt).

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Press Release - Nobel Peace Prize 2004

Press Release - Nobel Peace Prize 2004 | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it
Nobelprize.org, The Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize...

 

Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work with the Green Belt Movement. The prize validated her work and established her as the first African woman to win this honor.

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Works Cited

“Books by Wangari Maathai.” The Green Belt Movement. N.p., Sept. 2010. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://greenbeltmovement.org/‌w.php?id=56>.


Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Wangar Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dies at 71.” New York Times 26 Sept. 2011: n. pag. New York Times . Web. 10 Jan. 2012.

<http:////www.nytimes.com/‌2011/‌09/‌27/‌world/‌africa/‌wangari-maathai-nobel-peace-prize-laureate-dies-at-71.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1>.


“Video Gallery.” The Green Belt Movement . N.p., Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://greenbeltmovement.org/‌w.php?id=93>.


“Wangari Maathai: Africa’s First Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dies.” MYWEKU: All Things African . N.p., 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://myweku.com/‌2011/‌09/‌wangari-maathai-africas-first-woman-nobel-peace-prize-winner-dies/>.

 

“Wangari Maathai: A Life of Firsts .” The Green Belt Movement . N.p., Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://greenbeltmovement.org/‌w.php?id=134>.

 

“Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist and political activist, died on September 25th, aged 71.” The Economist 8 Oct. 2011: n. pag. The Economist. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.economist.com/‌node/‌21531415>.

 

“Wangari Maathai – Biography.” Nobelprize.org. N.p., 25 Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.nobelprize.org/‌nobel_prizes/‌peace/‌laureates/‌2004/‌maathai-bio.html>.

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Political Career

Political Career | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it

When Daniel arp Moi was the leader of Kenya, Maathai and the Green Belt Movement fought against his dictatorial actions. They worked tirelessly to preserve the Uhuru (freedom) Park in downtown Nairobi, where Moi was planning to construct a skyscraper. This was one of the only public parks that existed in the country. She also led a yearlong vigil with the mothers of political prisoners, which led to the release of forty-one men who were imprisoned by the government.

 

Moi was the president of Kenya for twenty-four years. After his resignation, Maathai became a Member of Parliament and was the Deputy Minister for the Environment. In addition to working to protect the forests, she brought many education initiatives, such as scholarships for HIV/AIDS orphans. She also worked to provide nutrition and greater access to Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) for those living with AIDS.

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Education and Personal Life

Education and Personal Life | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it

Wangari Maathai was born on April 1, 1940 in the village of Ihithe near Nyeri, Kenya. Unlike most Kenyan girls, Maathai went to school with her brother and graduated from Loreto Girls’ High School in 1959. The next year, she studied biological sciences at Mount St. Scholastica (currently Benedictine College) in Kansas, through the support of the scholarship of the African American Students Foundation. She earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1966, and moved on to earning her doctorate in veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi; she became the first woman in east or central Africa to earn such a degree. She later taught as an associate professor, and was chairwoman of the veterinary anatomy department at the University of Nairobi.

Maathai underwent a challenging divorce when her husband, Mwangi, said she was too strong-minded for a woman. After losing the divorce case and criticizing the judge, she was thrown in jail for six months. Wangari Maathai had three children, Waweru, Wanjira, and Mura, and one grandchild, Ruth Wangari.

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The Green Belt Movement | Books by Wangari Maathai

The Green Belt Movement | Books by Wangari Maathai | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it
Books by Wangari Maathai at The official site of the Green Belt Movement and its founder, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

 

These books include Maathai's autobiography, a description of how the Green Belt Movement was founded, challenges facing Africa, and ways the Green Belt Movement has helped the earth.

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The Green Belt Movement | Video Gallery

The Green Belt Movement | Video Gallery | Wangari Maathai | Scoop.it
Video Gallery at The official site of the Green Belt Movement and its founder, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

 

We couldn't choose just one video, so we are providing the link to many videos! You can hear Wangari Maathai's ideas in her own words, and also visually experience her work and the incredible effects it has had on Africa.

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