WOTM: Wangari Maathai

Beautiful, free-spirited, unique, strong and under-appreciated, name the few characteristics of nature as well as this issue’s Woman of the Month, Wangari Maathai. 

“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 - indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come” - Wangari Maathai

Those were a few of Wangari’s many wise words. Wangari Maathai was an environmentalist and political activist from Kenya. This inspiring woman has contributed a great deal to the environment. in addition, she has stood up for the rights of women everywhere. One of her beautiful quotes “In Kenya women are the first victims of environmental degradation, because they are the ones who walk for hours looking for water, who fetch firewood, who provide food for their families”truly shows her understanding of this crisis from personal experiences of being a mother working to sustain her family. She was always determined to complete the challenges violently thrown at her. She not only cared for herself but also for all of the women in need. In 2004, Wangari accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, being the first African woman to ever receive this award.

Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt movement has a record of planting 51 million trees all around the world. The Green Belt movement is a non-governmental organisation founded by Wangari herself and is based in Nairobi, Kenya. This organisation takes a holistic approach on environmental conservation, community development and capacity building. Wangari has also picked up poor mothers from the streets of Kenya to join her organisation with a paying job. This was to help those mothers in need while also getting them to work as staff members to help in the organisations monthly tree planting.  

Wangari has attended almost all of UNEP’s programmes and conferences to educate many young participants that were invited. Her work inspired many children and teenagers who share the same vision as her which is to save mother earth. During the 2006 United Nations Environmental Programme Children’s Conference to establish a World Tree Day, my older brother and I were amongst these privileged children and teenagers. Wangari had assisted and guided us to finally being able to create such a day. This goes to show that Wangari was able to inspire a little girl at the mere age of 4 to take a stand and make a difference for what is right and for what needs to be done to save our planet. 

Our Woman of the Month not only thinks about conserving the environment for the time being but for the long run, for the future. Her quote “We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all” defines her mission on earth to teach, inspire, and spread wisdom to those who share the same vision as her; to make this world a better place. Although she has now passed, her legacy continues to live on.

Totsiens Wangari Maathai.




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