She is remembered and
celebrated world over for her lifelong commitment to environmental protection.
The Nobel Peace Laureate; environmentalist; scientist; parliamentarian; founder
of the Green Belt Movement; advocate for social justice, human rights, and
democracy; elder; and peacemaker.
She has received
numerous awards and accolades as woman who established perhaps the greatest
tree planting initiative in the world – the Green Belt Movement. Having already
become the first Eastern African woman to hold a Ph.D., Professor Wangari
Maathai went on to establish this movement, which has now planted over 45
million trees in Kenya.
However, after the
movement was established, it soon became clear that Maathai was fighting for a
cause that spread far beyond the ecological. She insisted that the tree
planting be carried out by women in the villages of Kenya, who through
protecting their environment and ensuring paid employment for planting the
trees, are now able to better care for their future generations. Essentially,
Maathai’s unique insight was that social and economic issues were fundamentally
intertwined with the environment.
In fact, the Green Belt
Movement helped to profoundly improve the lives of Kenyan women and all
Kenyans, through education, food-security and income, and rights- standing up
to the then dictator Moi which lead to the first democratic elections in Kenya.
In 2004 the Nobel committee awarded Maathai the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts
to link peace, sustainable development and democracy. This was a momentous
achievement, as she was not only the first African woman to win the award, but
the first environmentalist, indicating that her efforts had demonstrated that
environmental protection in itself, was a path to peace.
Maathai passed away on
25th September 2011, and the world lost a true heroine and
environmental luminary. Nevertheless, we can look back over her life and
celebrate her remarkable selfless dedication to improving the environment, and
enhancing the lives of women in Kenya, where her legacy continues to inspire
leaders around the world. It was for this reason that, we
as PAW, East Africa chapter celebrate this great daughter of the soil. Going
forward, as Wangari used to say when she told the wonderful story of the little
hummingbird- we will do the best we can!