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Maathai, Wangari (1940–)

Maathai, Wangari (1940–)

Kenyan ecologist and activist. Name variations: Wangari Muta Maathai or Maathi. Born April 1, 1940, in Nyeri, Kenya; Mount St. Scholastica College, BS in biology, 1964; University of Pittsburgh, MS in anatomy and tissue culture; University of Nairobi, PhD, 1971, the 1st woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate; m. businessman, 1969 (div. mid-1970s); children: 3.

Nobel peace laureate, became the 1st woman to lecture, teach, and later serve as anatomy department head at University of Nairobi (1976); ran for Parliament but was disqualified on a technicality (late 1970s); planted 7 trees in a Nairobi park on World Environment Day to start Green Belt Movement (June 5, 1977), which called upon women to plant trees to help provide wood and improve soil conditions (the movement had 80,000, mostly female members in Kenya by 1997 and had reached 30 additional African nations); hoping to improve conditions in Kenya, became involved in politics (beginning late 1980s), leading to harassment from the government; led protest against destruction of forest outside Nairobi and construction of 62-story office tower in Uhuru Park; served as visiting fellow at Yale University's Global Institute for Sustainable Forestry (Jan 2002); elected to Parliament (Dec 2002); appointed deputy minister for Kenya's Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Wildlife (Jan 2003) by newly elected Kenyan President Mwai Kibabi; won Nobel Peace Prize (2004), the 1st African woman to win the award; writings include The Green Belt Movement (1985) and The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience (1988). Received Woman of the Year Award (1983), Right Livelihood Award (1984), Windstar Award for the Environment (1988), Woman of the World Award (1989), Goldman Environmental Prize (1991), and Jane Addams International Women's Leadership Award (1993).

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