About Wangari Maathai
Summary Biography of Professor Wangari Maathai
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya (Africa) in 1940. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Professor Maathai obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas (1964). She subsequently earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh (1966). Professor Maathai pursued doctoral studies in Germany and the University of Nairobi, obtaining a Ph.D. (1971) from the University of Nairobi where she also taught veterinary anatomy. She became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively. In both cases, she was the first woman to attain those positions in the region.
Professor Maathai was active in the National Council of Women of Kenya in 1976-87 and was its chairman from 1981-87. In 1976, while she was serving the National Council of Women, Professor Maathai introduced the idea of community-based tree planting. She continued to develop this idea into a broad-based grassroots organization whose main focus is poverty reduction and environmental conservation through tree planting. With the organization which became known as the Green Belt Movement Professor Maathai has assisted women in planting more than 40 million trees on community lands including farms, schools and church compounds.
In 1986 the Green Belt Movement (GBM) established a Pan African Green Belt Network that has exposed many leaders of other African countries to its unique approach. Some of these individuals have established similar tree planting initiatives in their own countries using the methods taught to improve their efforts. Countries that have successfully launched such initiatives in Africa include Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and others.
In September 1998, Professor Maathai became co-chair of the Jubilee 2000 Africa Campaign, which seeks debt cancellation for African countries. Her campaign against land grabbing and rapacious allocation of forest lands has gained international attention in recent years.
Professor Maathai is internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She has addressed the UN on several occasions and spoke on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly during the five-year review of the Earth Summit. She served on the commission for Global Governance and the Commission on the Future. She and the Green Belt Movement have received numerous awards, most notably the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Other awards include the Disney Conservation Award (2006), the Paul Harris Fellow (2005), the Sophie Prize (2004), the Petra Kelly Prize for Environment (2004), the Conservation Scientist Award (2004), J. Sterling Morton Award (2004), WANGO Environment Award (2003), Outstanding Vision and Commitment Award (2002), Excellence Award from the Kenyan Community Abroad (2001), Golden Ark Award (1994), Juliet Hollister Award (2001), Jane Adams Leadership Award (1993), Edinburgh Medal (1993), UN's Africa Prize for Leadership (1991), Goldman Environmental prize (1991), the Woman of the World (1989), Windstar Award for the Environment (1988), Better World Society Award (1986), Right Livelihood Award (1984) and the Woman of the Year Award (1983).
Professor Maathai was listed 6th in the Environment Agency (UK) peer review of the world’s Top 100 Eco-Heroes. She was also included in UNEP's Global 500 Hall of Fame and named one of the 100 heroines of the world. In June 1997, Professor Maathai was elected by Earth Times as one of 100 persons in the World who have made a difference in the environmental arena. In 2005, Professor Maathai was honored by Time Magazine as one of 100 most influential people in the world, and by Forbes Magazine as one of 100 most powerful women in the world.
Professor Maathai has also received honorary doctoral degrees from several institutions around the world: Williams college (1990), Hobart & William Smith Colleges (1994), University of Norway (1997), Yale University (2004), Willamette College (2005), University of California at Irvine (2006), and Morehouse University (2006).
The Green Belt Movement and Professor Maathai are featured in several publications including: Speak Truth to Power (Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, 2000), Women Pioneers for the Environment (Mary Joy Breton, 1998), Hopes Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet (Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe, 2002), Una Sola Terra: Donna I Medi Ambient Despres de Rio (Brice Lalonde et al, 1998), Land Ist Leben (Bedrohte Volker, 1993. Dr. Maathai has also written two books of her own: an autobiography, Unbowed, and an explanation of her organizational method, The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience.
Professor Maathai serves on the boards of organisations including the Women and Environment Development Organization (WEDO), World Learning for International Development, Green Cross International, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Prince Albert II of Monaco Environmental Foundation, and the National Council of Women of Kenya.
In December 2002, Professor Maathai was elected to Kenya's parliament with an overwhelming 98 percent of the vote. Until 2007, she represented the Tetu constituency, Nyeri district in central Kenya (her home region). From 2003- 2007 Professor Maathai served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya's ninth parliament.
In 2005 Professor Maathai was elected the Presiding Officer of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the African Union based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ECOSOCC was formed to advise the African Union on issues related to the African civil society. Dr. Maathai was also honored with an appointment as Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem, where she serves in an advocacy role for the region's conservation and protection.
In April 2006, the President of France, Mr. Jacques Chirac honoured Professor Maathai with France’s highest honour, Legion d’Honneur. The decoration ceremony took place in Paris in April 2006 and was presided over by Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development, Madam Nelly Olin. Also in 2006, Professor Maathai founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative with her sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan. In 2007 Professor Maathai was invited to be co-chair of the Congo Basin Fund initiated by the UK government to help protect the Congo Forests.
2010: Earth Hall of Fame, Kyoto (Japan)
2009: Earth Hall of Fame, Kyoto (Japan)
2009: Humanity 4 Water Award for Outstanding Commitment 2 Action
2009: The Order of the Rising Sun, Japan
2009: Judge, 2009 Geotourism Challenge, National Geographic, USA
2009: NAACP Chairman's Award , USA
2008: Dignitas Humana Award, St John's School of Theology, USA
2008: Cinema Verite, Honorary President, France
2008: Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Honorary Fellowship, UK
2007: The Nelson Mandela Award for Health & Human Rights, South Africa
2007: The Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, India
2007: Cross of the Order of St Benedict, Benedictine College, Kansas, USA
2007: World Citizenship Award, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
2006: The Indira Gandhi International Award for Peace, Disarmament & Development, India
2006: Premio Defensa Medio Ambiente, Club Internacional De Prensa, Spain
2006: 6th in 100 Greatest Eco-Heroes of All Time, The Environment Agency, UK
2006: Medal for Distinguished Achievement, University of Pennsylvania, USA
2006: Woman of Achievement Award from the American Biographical Institute Inc., USA
2006: The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights,
Milele(Lifetime) Achievement Award
2006: Legion D'Honneur, Government of France
2006: The IAIA Global Environment Award,
International Association for Impact Assessment, Norway
2006: Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Award, USA
2006: World Citizenship Award
2005: New York Women's Century Award, New York Women's Foundation, USA
2005: One of the 100 Most Influential People in the World: Time magazine, USA
2005: One of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World: Forbes magazine, USA
2004: Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Norway
2004: Sophie Prize, the Sophie Foundation, Norway
2004: Elder of the Golden Heart, Republic of Kenya
2004: Petra Kelly Environment Prize, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Germany
2004: J. Sterling Morton Award, Arbor Day Foundation, USA
2004: Conservation Scientist Award,
Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University, USA
2003: Elder of the Burning Spear, Republic of Kenya
2003: WANGO Environment Award,
World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations , USA
2002: Outstanding Vision and Commitment Award, Bridges to Community, USA
2001: Excellence Award, Kenyan Community Abroad, USA
2001: The Juliet Hollister Award, Temple of Understanding, USA
1997: One of 100 in the World Who've Made a Difference in the Environment:
Earth Times, USA
1995: International Women's Hall of Fame,
International Women's Forum Leadership Foundation, USA
1994: The Order of the Golden Ark Award, the Netherlands
1993: The Jane Addams Leadership Award, Jane Addams Conference, USA
1993: The Edinburgh Medal, Medical Research Council, Scotland
1991: The Hunger Project’s Africa Prize for Leadership, United Nations, USA
1991: Global 500 Hall of Fame: United Nations Environment Programme, USA
1991: The Goldman Environmental Prize, the Goldman Foundation, USA
1990: The Offeramus Medal, Benedictine College, USA
1989: Women of the World Award, WomenAid, UK
1988: The Windstar Award for the Environment, Windstar Foundation, USA
1986: Better World Society Award, USA
1984: Right Livelihood Award, Sweden
1983: Woman of the Year Award
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