Prof. Dr. Wangari Maathai
Politician, environmental activist, Nobel Peace Prize 2004
DAAD Scholarship 1978
It's impossible to overlook the impact of her commitment to the environment: 20 million trees have been planted in Kenya, above all by women, since 1977 when Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement. "We have a special responsibility for our planet's ecosystem. By protecting other species, we secure our own survival." Her Green Belt Movement sharpened both the population's ecological and political awareness. Wangari Maathai, born in 1940, was her country's Deputy Minister of the Environment from 2003 to 2007. She has always been ahead of the times. She was the first woman from East Africa to gain a doctorate in biology, the first woman professor of veterinary anatomy in 1971, and later dean of her department at the University of Nairobi. In 1978, the veterinary scientist completed a DAAD-funded study visit to Germany.
We have a special responsibility for our planet's ecosystem. By protecting other species, we secure our own survival.
Despite this remarkable career, she never lost sight of the massive social and economic problems which the women of her country face. On the contrary, as Chairwoman of the National Council for Women in Kenya she encouraged other women to become more independent and won their support for the gigantic tree-planting campaign. Nor did the mother of three shrink from conflict with the authoritarian Moi regime. Respect for human rights, women's emancipation, non-violence, ecological sustainability and democracy were the goals which Wangari Maathai staunchly championed and for which she was repeatedly arrested without charge, above all in the 1990s. Her opposition to a president-supported building project in the jungle attracted worldwide attention in 1998. December 2002 saw Wangari Maathai become a Member of Parliament and eventually a cabinet member under the country's new President, Mwai Kibaki. In December 2005 he appointed her Deputy Minister of the Environment once again.
Wangari Maathai died in Nairobi on 25 September 2011 at the age of 71.