Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai on the Environment, the War in Iraq, Debt and Women’s Equality
Today on this International Women’s Day, we spend the hour with Wangari Maathai, the first African woman and first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Her life story is a remarkable one. Wangari Maathai grew up in a rural village in Kenya. She excelled at school and eventually won a scholarship to attend university in the United States. After graduating with a degree in biological sciences she went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1971, she received her PhD from the University of Nairobi, making her the first woman in eastern and central Africa to earn a doctorate.
She then embarked on what would become a life-long campaign against the government-backed forest clearances in Kenya. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement when she planted nine tree seeds in the yard of her house. In the following years, she succeeded in persuading women across Africa to do the same. Today, about 30 million trees have been planted across the continent to fight deforestation.
Throughout her life, Wangari Maathai has campaigned on issues such as poverty, malnutrition, corruption, women’s low economic status and the lack of media freedom in Kenya. She has also criticized the negative images of Africa in the Western media and the reluctance of rich countries to relieve Africa’s debt.