Remembering Wangari Maathai

The late Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. PHOTO| FILE 

Sunday, September 25, marked five years since the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, environmentalist Wangari Maathai (above) died.

Prof Maathai’s was a life of many of firsts — the first woman both to earn a PhD in East and Central Africa (1971) and head the Veterinary Anatomy Department at the University of Nairobi (1976). She is, however, remembered more for lending and amplifying her voice as a defender and protector of the environment.

The founder of the environmental organisation, Green Belt Movement (GBM), called out all to protect the environment, saying: “You don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.” But she would pay dearly for her clamour to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods as she was harassed and attacked for it by the government of the day. Today, large tracts of land are being cleared, mainly for real estate development.

Prof Maathai died at 71 of ovarian cancer. She is survived by her three children, Waweru, Muta and Wanjira, who now chairs the Wangari Maathai Foundation.