Wangari Maathai

Founder of the Green Belt Movement

Today is the birthday of the Kenyan ecologist and first female Kenyan Ph.D. and professor Wangari Maathai ("One-Garry" - rhymes with starry - "Ma-TH-EYE")

Wangari was the founder of the Green Belt Movement. She fought for environmental protection and women's empowerment by working with communities to plant "green belts" of trees. Today, the Green Belt Movement has planted "over 45 million trees across Kenya to combat deforestation, stop soil erosion, and generate income for women and their families."
In 2004, Wangari became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee recognized "her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace." Wangari authored four books: The Green Belt Movement, Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth.
Wangari died from ovarian cancer in 2011 at the age of 71.
Wangari said,

"We think that diamonds are very important, gold is very important, all these minerals are very important. We call them precious minerals, but they are all forms of the soil. But that part of this mineral that is on top, like it is the skin of the earth, that is the most precious of the commons."
"Using trees as a symbol of peace is in keeping with a widespread African tradition. For example, the elders of the Kikuyu carried a staff from the thigi tree that, when placed between two disputing sides, caused them to stop fighting and seek reconciliation. Many communities in Africa have these traditions."
"When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and hope."

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Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai

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