She was born in Kenya and is a worldwide acknowledged for her love for the environment preservation. This is accredited to her work in championing for the well-being of the nature and the front-liner in the fight for good governance and the respect of rights for all. The Greenbelt movement was formed by Professor Maathai in 2004 in her quest for achieving protection of the environment by planting trees. This made her to be internationally respected and earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Life History

[1]This Nobel Prize winner was born in 1940 in Nyeri, Mt. Kenya region a rural area where farming is the main activity. She was born in a polygamous family which was very common then.

At the time of Maathai’s upbringing only few girls were permitted to go to school. [2]Only after her brother was instigated was when she went to school. She was taught mostly by Catholic nuns and, later graduated from Loreto High School. Professor Wangari loved to conserve the environment from a young age. This pushed her to pursue environmental science at Mount St. Scholastica College based in Atchison, Kansas. She acclaimed that her work in environmental conservation was inspired during her childhood days. This was when she saw forests being destroyed and, being replaced by commercial farm produce. She knew that this act was destroying biodiversity and water catchment areas

With much determination, she went on to achieve [3]Masters of Science degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She attended doctoral studies and achieved her PhD at Nairobi University in 1971 being the only woman in the region to earn a doctoral degree. This opened her way to become a veterinary anatomy lecturer. She later became an associate professor in 1977 at UON. All her achievements made her a phenomenal woman to be envied by all in East and Central Africa. This was such an extra-ordinary achievement during that time especially for a woman.

 Professor Wangari became a pro-active chairperson of the National Council of Women. This was in 1976. While still the chair of the Council, she did not forget the love she had for the environment as she encouraged women to plant trees and, was such a success as they planted more than 20 million trees. The Green Belt was hatched through Maathai’s idea of involving women and Kenyans at large to plant trees in schools, compounds, hospitals and, farms. This was aimed at reducing poverty and conserves the environment.

Saving the forest was a dangerous path to trade on since the forests land was usually grabbed by prominent people, and she received death threats due to her movement which had become a countrywide movement. She was not deterred since she had devoted herself in the cause of saving the forests no matter the cost. This made her to be at loggerheads with the government due to her active support for economic, social and democratic change.  During her years as a spokesperson for those who cannot speak, Maathai was attacked because of fighting for what she believed in. She was even beaten by police into unconsciousness during a demonstration for food shortage in 1992.  [4] Maathai even went ahead to call forest clearance a “suicidal mission,” explaining that to mess about with forest is directly prying with the rain system. Disturbing the rain system would prove dyer to everyone.

During the December 2002 Kenya general election Maathai again made headlines for winning the Tetu Constituency parliamentary seat with 98 percent of the votes. She was then appointed as Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife in Kenya. She became an outspoken leader as she was the defender of forests and, was against destruction of forests land by prominent people for commercial benefit.

This Revolutionary leader threw the towel on 25th September 2011 when she passed away was an icon and a leader to be looked up to by many, and not just in Kenya or Africa but internationally. In her demise, we lost a leader who would always had the plight of the vulnerable at heart.

[1] Unbowed: A Memoir book




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