- NAME: Wangari Maathai
- OCCUPATION: Environmental Activist, Women's Rights Activist, Government Official
- BIRTH DATE: April 01, 1940
- DEATH DATE: September 25, 2011
- EDUCATION: Mount St. Scholastica College (Benedictine College), University of Pittsburgh, University of Nairobi
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Nyeri, Kenya
- PLACE OF DEATH: Nairobi, Kenya
- Full Name: Wangari Muta Maathai
- AKA: Wangari Maathai
Best Known For
Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan political and environmental activist and her country's assistant minister of environment, natural resources and wildlife.
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"Nobody would have bothered me if all I did was to encourage women to plant trees," she later said, according to The Economist. But I started seeing the linkages between the problems that we were dealing with and the root causes of environmental degradation. And one of those root causes was misgovernance."
Maathai remained a vocal opponent of the Kenyan government until Moi's political party lost control in 2002. After several failed attempts, she finally earned a seat in the country's parliament that same year. Maathai soon was appointed assistant minister of environment, natural resources and wildlife. In 2004, she received a remarkable honor. Maathai was given the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for "her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace," according to the Nobel Foundation website.
In her Nobel speech, Maathai said that picking her for the renowned peace prize "challenged the world to broaden the understanding of peace: There can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space." She also called for the release of fellow activist Aung San Suu Kyi in her talk.
Maathai shared her amazing life story with the world in the 2006 memoir Unbowed. In her final years, she battled ovarian cancer. She died on September 25, 2011, at the age of 71 years old. Maathai was survived by her three children: Waweru, Wanjira and Muta.
Former U.S. vice president and fellow environmentalist Al Gore was among those who offered remembrances of Maathai. "Wangari overcame incredible obstacles to devote her life to service—service to her children, to her constituents, to the women, and indeed all the people of Kenya—and to the world as a whole,'' according to The New York Times. She remains a potent example of how one person can be a force for change. As Maathai once wrote in her memoir, "What people see as fearlessness is really persistence."
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