Global Issues

Honoring Wangari Maathai

Posted by: Thu-Huong Ha

Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, died yesterday, September 25, at the age of 71. A former member of the Kenyan parliament, Maathai combined not only peaceful community-based activism and forest-conservation efforts, but also government transparency and women’s rights, all in one game-changing project called the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 40 million trees in Kenya and abroad.

Join us in honoring her memory in the words of these two TED speakers who’ve spoken of Maathai as an example of courage in action:

“They call [Maathai] the tree lady, but she’s more than the tree lady … When she was planting those trees, I don’t think most people understand that, at the same time, she was using the action of getting people together to plant those trees to talk about how to overcome the authoritarian government in her country.”
– from Jody Williams’ TEDTalk

“[Maathai] talks with the women, and explains that the land is barren because they have cut and sold the trees. She gets the women to plant new trees and water them, drop by drop. In a matter of five or six years, they have a forest, the soil is enriched, and the village is saved.”
– from Isabel Allende’s TEDTalk

Comments (6)

  • Carl LIndgren commented on Oct 7 2011

    What a huge loss for the planet!

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  • Kelo Kubu commented on Sep 27 2011

    When I met Wangari Maathai, she said she plants trees in Kenya. she did not tell me her name. Maybe she did and I did not remember. At that point in my life, I was not sure why my employer felt that I have to spent a whole afternoon with “a woman who plants trees in Kenya”. She spoke like a mother. Asked me difficult questions and really made me think hard about being an African woman living in South Africa. I told everyone about her. I did not remember her name.I used to refer to her as a woman from Kenya who plants trees. Until one day I was watching the news and saw her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I said to my family, that’s the tree lady. I felt blessed. She made me understand a lot. Not just about trees and the environment, but about African politics as well. She was a true inspiration.

  • commented on Sep 26 2011

    Great Article!!