Kenyan Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathai, dies in Nairobi

NAIROBI, Kenya (27 September, 2011)_Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace laureate, conservationist and politician who sparked an international movement for women’s rights and environmental preservation, has died in Nairobi while undergoing cancer treatment aged 71.
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NAIROBI, Kenya (27 September, 2011)_Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace laureate, conservationist and politician who led an international movement for women’s rights and environmental preservation, has died in Nairobi while undergoing cancer treatment aged 71.

“Today we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Wangari. Although she lost her battle with cancer, she won the battle to place forests and the people who depend on them, firmly on the global agenda”, said France Seymour, Director General, Center for International Forestry Research.

A passionate supporter of agroforestry, Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. To date, the movement has planted more than 30 million trees throughout Africa.

In 2004, she was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting conservation, women’s rights and transparent government.

Maathai was an elected Member of Parliament and served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the Kenyan government between January 2003 and November 2005.

Professor Maathai was also a keynote speaker at the opening of the UN International Year of the Forests where she implored decision-makers to stop taking for granted the environmental services that trees provide.

“It is with profound sadness that we accept the passing of a forest and humanity icon,” said Tony Simons, Director General Designate of the World Agroforestry Centre. “We extend our deepest sympathies to her immediate and wider family.”

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  • Esther

    Many images and sounds flash across my mind when I think of Prof. Wangari Maathai. I see forests in the highlands of Kenya, degraded and degrading. I see women planting trees. I see policemen, at Uhuru Park, people running away from them. Into a church. Across roads. Teargas. Fear. I see one woman battered and bruised. Still. Not calling it quits. I hear highly placed people. Very powerful people. Calling her. Scolding. Trivializing. Offending. I see her distributing leaflets before a national election and I hear her urging reconciliation after another gone wrong. I see and hear her take the oath of office. I see and hear her graciously accept a Nobel Prize. I see and hear her give a talk, here and there. These are some of the sounds and images that flash across my mind when I think of Prof. Wangari Maathai. What a life! Yet, she was unusual, breaking as many barriers as were set forth before her. In death, as in life, I celebrate this incredible woman. Naomba Maulana amlaze mahali pema peponi.