Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai or better known as Wangari Maathai is an environmental hero from Kenya. She was born in Ihithe Village, Tetu Division, Nyeri, Kenya on April 1, 1940, and died in Nairobi, September 25, 2011, at the age of 71 years old.
Wangari Maathai is an environmental activist. In 2004, she was the first woman from Africa to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Prize is awarded for her contribution in the field of sustainable development, democracy and peace.
Wangari Maathai is a member of the Kenyan Parliament. In addition, she is a former Assistant Minister of Environment and Natural Resources in the administration of President Mwai Kibaki for approximately two years between January 2003 and November 2005.
In 1964, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology from Benedictine College, Atchison. After that, she went to University of Pittsburgh, America before returning to Nairobi.
She went to the University of Nairobi and earned her Ph.D. degree. This is the first degree for women of East African origin in the field of veterinary medicine. Then she became a lecturer in animal anatomy at the university in 1971 and later became dean. After that, she became a Visiting Fellow at the Global Institute for Forestry at Yale University, USA.
Wangari Maathai and his career as a fighter for the Environment
In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, which is a grassroots non-governmental organization aimed at ensuring a source of firewood support and preventing soil erosion.
The campaign by the green belt movement has succeeded in driving poor women and they have managed to grow more than 30 million trees to date. Over the years, due to the lack of trees by illegal logging, its effects to a lack of fresh water. Lack of firewood and declining soil quality are also the side effects of illegal logging.
Maathai is able to provide moral encouragement and motivation to mothers of malnourished children so they will collect plant seeds, dig wells and keep seeds from animals and humans.
Thanks to her services that always fight for the environment, therefore, she is dubbed as Mama Miti (which comes from Swahili which means Mother of the Tree).
From 1976 to 1987, for eleven years, Maathai was active in Kenya’s National Council for Women, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake. She led the council since 1981-1987. The Blue Belt Movement, which emerged at the same time, participated in campaigns on education and nutrition issues. Maathai herself has embarked on a new challenge; for example, she is a member of the United Nations Disarmament Advisory Council.
Wangari Maathai is a brave woman
In 1989, she took bold steps to rescue Uhuru Park from the construction of the Keny Times Media Trust business complex. In December 2003, she was appointed as Assistant Minister for the Environment, Natural Resources, and Wildlife.
Other awards received by Maathai are Right Livelihood Award Woman of the Year Award, Woman of the World Award, Africa Prize also Petra Kelly Award from Heinrich Böll Foundation of Germany.
In addition, Wangari Maathai also received 3 honorary doctorates from Norway and the United States. Wangari Maathai’s hard work to protect the environment in Kenya needs to be appreciated by all of us and can encourage us to think about our environment as well.