Wangari Maathai (Kenya)

In 1940, Wangari Maathai was born in village of Ihithe, Nyeri District of Kenya. She was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. She was also the founder of “Green Belt Movement”, which is an environmental and non-governmental organization focusing on planting trees. In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of her great contribution to the sustainable development of environment, democracy and peace.


Wangari Maathai studied biology in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica and she was the first black woman to get a doctorate after graduation engaged in Kenya National Commission for women. Since 1976, she began to protect the most valuable natural resources and therefore launched the Green Belt movement. She led Kenyan poor women to have reforestation and there have been about twenty million to thirty million trees planted in Africa now. This movement helped improving the women’s livelihoods and avoiding deforestation and desertification in Kenya.


Later, Maathai was elected to be one of the members of Parliament and the assistant minister for Environment and Natural Resources. She gradually realized that only a democratic government can build up self-development to the whole society and reduce the damage to the natural environment. Thus, Maathai began to actively participate in the activities of anti-authoritarian leader and also criticize to the government on the blindly confrontation and construction. In the progress, she had been arrested even fought by the police.


Finally, her action raised global consideration as a kind of promotion of tree protection and democracy. Meanwhile, tree became a sign of the fight for democracy in Kenya. Maathai died because of cancer in Nairobi in 2011.


Written by Mok Ka Wing