Wangari Muta Maathai was born April 1, 1940, in Nyeri, Kenya. She grew up in a village that was situated in the central highlands of the colony of Kenya. She was the descendant of the Kikuyu people, the most populous ethnic group in Kenya. In 1943, young Wangari and her parents moved to a White-owned farm in the Rift Valley where her father found work.
In the early 1960s, Maathai attended Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas. She earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences in 1964. By 1966, she had earned her M.S. from the University of Pittsburgh. By 1971, she had earned her Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi. She was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.
While pursuing her doctorate degree, Maathai taught veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi. Shortly after beginning her career as an educator, she became the chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy in 1976. She later became an associate professor in 1977. She was the first woman in the region to obtain either of the aforementioned titles.
Green Belt Movement
In 1976, Maathai joined the National Council of Women of Kenya. She remained a member until 1987, serving as the chairperson from 1981-1987. While serving on the council, she proposed the idea of community-based tree planting. The idea soon developed into a grassroots organization known as the Green Belt Movement. The organization’s objective was poverty reduction and environmental conservation via planting trees.
Maathai realized international acclaim as she continuously fought for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation. She often addressed the United Nations (UN) on issues concerning the aforementioned topics. She also served on the Commission for Global Governance and the Commission on the Future.
From 2002-2007, Maathai represented the Tetu constituency and served as the Assistant Minister for Environmental and Natural Resources in Kenya’s parliament. In 2005, she served as the Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem. The following year, she founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
In 2009, Maathai was named a UN Messenger of Peace by the UN Secretary-General. By 2010, she founded the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies (WMI). Her institute is essentially an extension of the Green Belt Movement. After years of activism, she developed ovarian cancer. Wangari Maathai died September 25, 2011. She was 71 years old.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**]]>