Wangari Muta Maathai
1940 - 2011
“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.” Wangari Muta Maathai
The biologist Mangari Muta Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, the first female professor in Kenya, and the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Born in Kenia, Mangari Muta Maathai’s love for the global environment started early on, when as a girl she would plant trees and admire the forest.
After her studies in Biological Sciences in the US and pursuing a PhD in Germany and the University of Nairobi, she become professor and chair of the Veterinary Anatomy Department of the University of Nairobi and joined the National Council of Women of Kenya.
Concerned about the deforestation of her region, Mangari Muta Maathai started an initiative to plant trees, specially for women groups, aiming to provide the women with the means to gain independence and claim for their rights, while safeguarding the environment. Founder of the Green Belt Movement, she made possible the planting of over 30 million trees.
Her love for nature, and her deep understanding of the dependency of humans and the environment, led her to become the exceptional woman who fought for human rights, democracy, and environmental conservation, all through planting trees.
In 2004, Wangari Muta Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace."
Wangari Muta Maathai’s legacy and the power of her words will always be remembered.
Written by: Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe.