Wangari Maathai, holds the distinction of being the first woman of colour to be conferred the Nobel Peace Prize. She received this honour in 2004, in recognition of her services in environment conservation and her persistent struggle for democracy and human rights.

Her efforts at environment conservation through the Green Belt Movement started by her has inspired individuals in many other countries to launch campaigns to save the environment.

Being a trailblazer seems to come naturally to her. She has the distinction of being the first woman in East and Central Africa to obtain her doctorate in 1971.

She was among the first persons in her country to be given a scholarship to study in the U.S. On her return she was saddened to see that forests had been levelled in many parts of her country for the cultivation of cash crops.

Then as she was campaigning for her husband when he ran for Parliament, she saw women and children impoverished and malnourished due to lack of farming land because of deforestation. She realised that it was up to the people to tackle the problem and find a solution. She started the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant as many trees as possible. The Green Belt Movement was recognised by the National Council of Women in Kenya, which helped in its growth. The Movement aims to arm people with education and good nutrition so that they can fight against corruption and improve their own living conditions. Professor Maathai has been named by the Earth Times as one of the 100 people who have made a difference in the environmental development of the world. She was voted to parliament in December 2002 with 98 per cent of the votes and was appointed as Assistant Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources in Kenya's ninth parliament.

Recommended for you