Secretary-General's MDG Advocay Group

Secretary General's MDG Advocacy Group

Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)

Photo of Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai,
Nobel Peace Prize Winner, environmental and political activist (Kenya)

Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. She was internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation and was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

After her passing on 25 September 2011, the United Nations paid tribute to Wangari Maathai, a “pioneer in articulating the links between human rights, poverty, environmental protection and security,” said Ban Ki-moon. The MDG Advocacy Group looks forward to continuing a close cooperation with the Green Belt Movement.

Born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940, Maathai was the first woman in East / Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas, a Masters of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and pursued doctoral studies in Germany and the University of Nairobi, obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi where she also taught veterinary anatomy.

In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, through which she has assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds. She and the Green Belt Movement have received numerous awards, most notably the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

Professor Maathai held honorary doctoral degrees from several institutions around the world, including William's College, MA, USA (1990), Hobart & William Smith Colleges (1994), University of Norway (1997) and Yale University (2004).

Maathai was active in the National Council of Women from 1976 to 1987, including as its Chair in 1981-87. She served on the boards of several organizations including the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament, The Jane Goodall Institute, Women and Environment Development Organization (WEDO), World Learning for International Development, Green Cross International, Environment Liaison Center International, the WorldWIDE Network of Women in Environmental Work and National Council of Women of Kenya.

In 2002, Maathai was elected to Parliament with an overwhelming 98 per cent of the vote, and from 2003 to 2005 she served as Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife.

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