. . . "overcame incredible obstacles to devote her life to service.. . . " Al GORE
African women in general need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.
It is 30 years since we started this work. Activities that devastate the environment and societies continue unabated. Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.
In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.
That time is now.
I call on leaders, especially from Africa, to expand democratic space and build fair and just societies that allow the creativity and energy of their citizens to flourish.
The holistic approach to development, as exemplified by the Green Belt Movement, could be embraced and replicated in more parts of Africa and beyond. It is for this reason that I have established the Wangari Maathai Foundation to ensure the continuation and expansion of these activities. Although a lot has been achieved, much remains to be done.
"As I conclude I reflect on my childhood experience when I would visit a stream next to our home to fetch water for my mother. I would drink water straight from the stream…. Later, I saw thousands of tadpoles: black, energetic and wriggling through the clear water against the background of the brown earth. This is the world I inherited from my parents.”
“Today, over 50 years later, the stream has dried up, women walk long distances for water, which is not always clean, and children will never know what they have lost. The challenge is to restore the home of the tadpoles and give back to our children a world of beauty and wonder.” Wangari Maathai's Nobel Lecture
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai was a global inspiration, a heroine and a wise humanitarian who thought globally and acted locally . She was an Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council, a mother, a teacher, a peacemaker, a pioneer, an environmental warrior and a political activist who played an active r ole in the struggle for democracy in Kenya. 'Like a Nelson Mandela or a Mahatma Gandhi, Maathai stood way above most mortals,'
In 1977 Prof started the GBM, a grass-roots campaign that was aimed at countering the deforestation that was threatening the means of subsistence of the agricultural population in Kenya. Eventually the campaign spread to other African countries, and contributed to the planting of more than thirty million trees across the region. Maathai's mobilization of African women to plant trees was not limited in its vision to work for sustainable development; she perceived this process more broadly as a means of promoting democracy, women's rights, and international solidarity. In 1986, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for "her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace".
On the 25th of September 2011, Maathai sadly succumbed to complications from ovarian cancer, leaving behind a legacy of hummingbirds
“Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.”
“I have always believed that solutions to most of our problems must come from us"
“The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.”
“As a child, I used to visit the point where water bubbled up from the belly of the earth to form a stream. I imagine that very few people have been lucky enough to see the source of a river.” Unbowed
"We lived in a land abundant with shrubs, creepers, ferns and trees ... Because rain fell regularly and reliably, clean drinking water was everywhere. There were large, well-watered fields of maize, beans, wheat and vegetables. Hunger was virtually unknown." Planting the Future
"I have seen rivers that were brown with silt become clean-flowing again ... The job is hardly over, but it no longer seems impossible."
“When people learn about my life and the work of the Green Belt Movement and ask me ’Why trees?,’ the truth of the matter is that the question has many answers. The essential one was that I reacted to a set of problems by focusing on what could be done.”
“After the women had planted seedlings on their farms, I suggested that they go to surrounding areas and convince others to plant trees. This was a breakthrough, because it was now communities empowering one another for their own needs and benefit.”
Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking.
“I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone, you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it.”
“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”