About the Author
Wangari Muta Maathai has fought political corruption, struggled for women’s rights, spent time in jail, and won a seat in her country’s Parliament. Her formative years include a nurturing childhood in a Kenyan mountain village and an undergraduate education in the American Midwest during the Civil Rights era. The Green Belt Movement Maathai established has helped to restore Kenya’s indigenous forests and involved women in sustainable agriculture.
Born in Nyeri, Kenya (Africa) in 1940, Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, obtaining a Ph.D. (1971) from the University of Nairobi where she also taught veterinary anatomy. She became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively. In both cases, she was the first woman to attain those positions in the region.
It was while Maathai served in the National Council of Women of Kenya that she introduced the idea of planting trees with the people in 1976. She has continued to develop it into a broad-based, grassroots organization whose main focus is the planting of trees with women groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life.
Maathai is internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She has addressed the UN on several occasions and spoke on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly during the five-year review of the Earth Summit. She and the Green Belt Movement have received numerous awards, most notably the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2005, Maathai was honored by “Time” magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and by "Forbes Magazine" as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world. In April 2006, the President of France, Mr. Jacques Chirac, honored Maathai with France’s highest honour, Legion d’Honneur. Also in 2006, Maathai founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative with her sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan.