Wangari Maathai is internationally recognized for her persistent struggle in the fight for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. Born in Nyeri, Kenya, Professor Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. In 1976, as the chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi, Professor Maathai started a tree-planting initiative. Her initiative grew into a broad-based, grassroots organization called the Green Belt Movement, whose main focus is planting trees with women’s groups to both conserve the environment and improve Kenyans’ quality of life dramatically. Since then, the Pan African Green Belt Network has launched similar tree planting initiatives in other African countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. A visiting Fellow at Yale University’s Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry, Professor Maathai serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament. Her accomplishments include an appointment as Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife and a presidency of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council.Through the Green Belt Movement, Professor Maathai has assisted in planting more than 20 million trees across Africa, receiving numerous awards, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
“Clothe the earth – put on the skin, a dress. A green dress, like trees, like vegetation. And then, when the earth is covered with green, with vegetation, it looks very beautiful. And in this age of climate change, can you imagine how happy the planet would be?” – Wangari Maathai, Dirt! The Movie