Wangari Maathai

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Wangari Maathai notably said, “Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth, to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own.” Wangari Maathai was a brilliant environmental and political activist, writer and professor, striving for sustainability, peace, and empowerment of women.


In 1977, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an indigenous grassroots non-government organization in Nairobi, Kenya. The Green Belt Movement was developed in response to women reporting drier streams, decreasing food security, and longer distances traveled for collecting fuel and fencing. The organization arranged rural woman to plant trees in order to stop erosion, combat deforestation, generate income, and provide cooking fuel in Nairobi. Since Wangari Maathai founded the organization, 51 million trees have been planted and over 30,000 women have been trained in foresting, bee-keeping, food processing and other trades that result in Kenyan women earning income and preserving land and resources. Today, the Green Belt Movement continues to empower women and create a greener world.

Wangari Maathai accomplished many things throughout her life, including being the first woman in East and Central Africa to receive a doctorate degree (1971) and first female associate professor and Department Chair of Veterinary Anatomy. She was also the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, and in 2009, she became the UN Messenger of Peace.

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