Happy Black History Month! I wanted to spotlight different women this month as a way to honor them, remember them and hopefully inspire other women. My second spotlight of the month is Wangari Maathai. The next spotlight will be Lorraine Hansberry.
In my opinion, Wangari Maathai is one of the most notable women in this generation who does not get as much recognition as she deserves. She is the first Black woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
Wangari Maathai was born in Kenya and became the first woman in East and Central Africa to receive a doctoral degree (Nobel Peace Prize). She served on the National Council of Women in Kenya and it was during this time that she founded the Green Belt Movement (Green Belt Movement).
The Green Belt Movement is an organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to work towards conserving the environment and improving their lives. Maathai founded the environmental organization to address the issue of having streams drying up, food supplies being less secure. By planting seedlings, the women are able to store rainwater, provide food and firewood and receive a monetary token for their work (Green Belt Movement).
Conservation work wasn’t her only passion, Maathai was also an advocate for human rights, AIDS prevention and women’s issues. She addressed these issues in front of the United Nations General Assembly frequently. In 2002 she was elected to Kenya’s National Assembly and in 2003 she was appointed Assistant Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife (Britannica). In 2004 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first Black woman to receive the award.
Since being award the Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai published an autobiography of her journey. She was also appointed the Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem. In 2006 she founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative (Green Belt Movement).
Maathai passed away in 2011 due to ovarian cancer.
Here are some books to read more about her: