- Wangari Maathai
name = Wangari Maathai
image_size = 175
birth_date = Birth date and age|1940|4|1|mf=y
birth_place =Tetu division,
Nyeri District, Kenya
Environmentalist, Political activist
Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai (born
April 1, 1940in Ihithevillage, Tetu division, Nyeri Districtof Kenya) is an environmental and political activist. In 2004 she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prizefor “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Dr. Maathai is also an elected member of Parliament and served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibakibetween January 2003 and November 2005. She is of Kikuyuethnicity.
Prof. Maathai went to Ihithe Primary School before moving to Loreto Convent Secondary School in
After finishing school in Kenya, Maathai studied Biology in the
United Statesand Germany. She received her Bachelor's degree in biologyfrom Mount St. Scholastica College (now Benedictine College) in 1964, and her Master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, before returning to Nairobi. There, at the University of Nairobi, she earned the first Ph.D. awarded to an Eastern African woman (in veterinary medicine). In 1971, she became professorof veterinary anatomyat the University of Nairobi, and then later dean of her faculty. In 2002 Maathai accepted a position as Visiting Fellow at Yale University's Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry.
Activism and political life
In 1977, Maathai founded the
Green Belt Movement, a grassroots environmental non-governmental organization, which has now planted over 40 million trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion. She has come to be affectionately called "Tree Woman" or "The Tree Mother of Africa." Since then, she has been increasingly active on both environmental and women's issues.
Maathai was also the former chairperson of
Maendeleo Ya Wanawake(the National Council of Women of Kenya). In the 1980s her husband Mwangi Mathai, a politician whom she had married in 1969, divorced her, saying she was too strong-minded for a woman and that he was unable to control her. The judge in the divorce case agreed with the husband, and Wangari was put in jail for speaking out against the judge, who then decreed that she must drop her husband's surname. In defiance, Wangari chose to add an extra "a" instead. ["Conservation and Feminism: Africa's Greenheart." "The Economist", 21 Sep 2006.]
During the regime of President
Daniel arap Moi, she was imprisoned several times and violently attacked for demanding multi-party elections and an end to political corruptionand tribal politics. In 1989 Maathai almost single-handedly saved Nairobi's Uhuru Parkby stopping the construction by Moi's business associates of the 60-story Kenya Times Media Trust business complex.
In 1997, in Kenya's second multi-party elections marred by ethnic violence, she ran for the country's presidency, but her party withdrew her candidacy. Nevertheless, she was a minor candidate among several contenders.
In 2002 Maathai was elected to parliament when the
National Rainbow Coalition, which she represented, defeated the ruling party Kenya African National Union. She has been Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife since 2003. She founded the Mazingira Green Party of Kenyain 2003.
28 March 2005, she was elected as the first president of the African Union's Economic, Social and Cultural Council.
In 2006 she was one of the eight flag bearers at the 2006 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony. Also on
May 21, 2006 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by and gave the commencement address at Connecticut College. She supported the International Year of Deserts and Desertification programme. In November 2006, she spearheaded the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign.
In 2006, Maathai was one of the founders of The Nobel Women's Initiative along with sister Nobel Peace Laureates
Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Betty Williamsand Mairead Corrigan Maguire. Six women representing North Americaand South America, Europe, the Middle Eastand Africadecided to bring together their experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality. It is the goal of the Nobel Women's Initiative to help strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world. [ [http://www.nobelwomensinitiative.org] Nobel Women's Initiative ]
In January 2007 Maathai hosted the
Global Young Greensconference in Nairobi, where more than 120 young delegates of environmental, civil rights, peace and social justice youth movements as well as youth organisations of green parties from all over the world are expected to come.
On January 28, 2007, Maathai returned to Benedictine College for the first time in over 15 years and spoke to the students at her alma mater.
She also endorsed the
Forests Now Declaration, calling for new market-based mechanisms to protect forests.
Maathai was defeated in Party of National Unity's primary elections for its parliamentary candidates in November 2007 and chose to instead run as the candidate of a smaller party. [ [http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0%2C%2C2-11-1447_2223090%2C00.html "Upset in Kenyan primaries"] , Sapa (News24.com), November 18, 2007.] She was, however, defeated in the December 2007 parliamentary election, and she subsequently called for a recount of votes in the presidential election (officially won by Kibaki, but disputed by the opposition) in her constituency, saying that both sides should feel the outcome was fair and that there were indications of fraud. [ [http://www.afriquenligne.fr/news/daily-news/opposition-claims-polls-fraud-discovered-in-48-elective-zones-2007123014189/ "Opposition claims polls fraud discovered in 48 elective zones"] , Panapress (afriquenligne.fr), December 30, 2007.]
In 2008, she will co-host the
Global GreensNairobi conference, which is expected to draw over 1,000 Greens from dozens of Green Parties around the planet.
Her autobiography, "Unbowed: One Woman’s Story", was released in September 30, 2006.
Nobel Peace Prize
"Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in
Kenya," the Norwegian Nobel Committeesaid in a statement announcing her as the 2004 Nobel Peace Prizewinner. "Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression—nationally and internationally. She has served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to better their situation." In short, her main contribution to peace was planting hundreds of trees throughout the country in an effort to deter warfare.
Controversy arose after the announcement of the Nobel award, when, according to "
Radio Free Europe", "News media in Africa — including the "Standard" — [...] have reported that Maathai has claimed HIV/AIDS was deliberately created by Western scientists to decimate the African population." [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/12/bf4adbd1-fba8-4ae6-b68b-fa5bcb171f1a.html World: Africa's First Female Nobel Peace Laureate Accepts Award Amid Controversy Over AIDS Remarks] ] " Radio Free Europe" also reported that "Maathai denied making such allegations" and that "The Standard" has stood by its reports." [ [http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/12/bf4adbd1-fba8-4ae6-b68b-fa5bcb171f1a.html World: Africa's First Female Nobel Peace Laureate Accepts Award Amid Controversy Over AIDS Remarks] ]
In a 2004 interview with
Time Magazine, [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,713166,00.html] in response to the question, "You've said that AIDS is a biological weapon manufactured by the developing world to wipe out black people. Do you still believe that?" Maathai replied, "I have no idea who created AIDS and whether it is a biological agent or not. But I do know things like that don't come from the moon. I have always thought that it is important to tell people the truth, but I guess there is some truth that must not be too exposed," and when asked what she meant, she continued, "I'm referring to AIDS. I am sure people know where it came from. And I'm quite sure it did not come from the monkeys." [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901041018-713166,00.html 10 Questions: Wangari Maathai - TIME ] ]
In response she issued the following statement:
Right Livelihood Award(a.k.a. "Alternative Nobel Prize")
Global 500 Roll of Honour
Goldman Environmental Prize
Edinburgh Medal(for "Outstanding contribution to Humanity through Science")
Petra Kelly Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
World Citizenship Award
Indira Gandhi Prize
* Max Andrews (Ed.): Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook. London, [http://thersa.org/art Royal Society of Arts] , 2006 ISBN 978-0-901469-57-1 (Interview with Wangari Maathai)
* Wangari Maathai, "Unbowed: A Memoir",
Knopf, 2006. ISBN 0-307-26348-7
* Wangari Maathai, "The Greenbelt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience",
Lantern Books, 2003. ISBN 1-59056-040-X
* Wangari Maathai, "The Canopy of Hope: My Life Campaigning for Africa, Women, and the Environment",
Lantern Books, 2002. ISBN 1-59056-002-7
* Wangari Maathai, "Bottom is Heavy Too: Edinburgh Medal Lecture", Edinburgh UP, 1994. ISBN 0-7486-0518-5
Women's Environment & Development Organization
Tokyo International Conference on African Development(TICAD-IV), 2008.
Black Nobel Prize laureates
* [http://www.greenbeltmovement.com Official Site: The Green Belt Movement and Wangari Maathai]
* [http://www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign/ Wangari Maathai and the Billion Tree Campaign]
* [http://www.imow.org/wpp/stories/viewStory?storyId=1239 Feature on Wangari Maathai by the International Museum of Women]
* [http://www.gleeds.tv/index.cfm?category=46 Wangari Maathai presents a talk as a part of the Architecture and Climate Change lecture series held by the Royal Institute of British Architects]
NAME=Maathai, Wangari Muta
Kenyan environmental and political activist
DATE OF BIRTH=
April 1, 1940
PLACE OF BIRTH=
Ihithevillage, Nyeri District, Kenya
DATE OF DEATH=living
PLACE OF DEATH=
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