News Archive
May 15, 2015 - Celebrating Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Muta Maathai: Her Legacy Continues
Opening remarks were given by Mr. Arthur Amaya Andambi, Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations
On May 15th, the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development to the United Nations co-organized an event in honor of the late Nobel Laureate, Professor Wangari Muta Maathai. Professor Maathai is known for her contribution to sustainability across the African continent through her organization, the Green Belt Movement, and her dedication to community building and environmental education.

Community leaders, environmentalists and United Nations representatives gathered in honor of Wangari Maathai and her inspiring work with the Green Belt Movement.
Born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940, Wangari Maathai was the first woman in East and Central W Africa to earn a doctorate degree. Wangari Maathai obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas and subsequently earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Maathai was active in the National Council of Women of Kenya from 1976-87. During this time, she introduced the idea of planting trees with the people in 1976 and continued to develop it into a broad-based, grassroots organization whose main focus is the planting of trees with women groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. Through the Green Belt Movement (GBM) she assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds. Professor Maathai was internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation.

At the event organized in her honor, various representatives from local organizations, the United Nations Women's fund, and her family members gathered to remember the inspiring work of Wangari Maathai and to encourage the continuation of the Green Belt Movement's activities for environmental sustainability.

Wangari Maathai's son, Muta Maathai, shared his personal memories of his mother's environmental commitment and showed appreciation for those who attended the event.
Mr. Arthur Amaya Andambi, Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Kenya to the United Nations, spoke about the importance of Wangari Maathai in her home country and the incredible impact she had on local communities. His opening comments were followed with a message from Wanjira Maathai, the daughter of Wangari and the current director of the Green Belt Movement. Her statement was read aloud by Mia MacDonald, the Chair of the Green Belt Movement International and long-time friend of Wangari Maathai.

( excerpt from the statement written by Wanjira Maathai )
" Nearly 40 years ago, women in the Kenyan countryside reported to the authorities that their streams were drying up. Their crops were failing. And they found themselves walking farther and farther to gather firewood for fuel, building and fencing. Deforestation, in short, was threatening their livelihoods. The women petitioned the government to take action. But my mother had an insight. She saw that women themselves could be the solution to environmental degradation. She started a project to offer small stipends to women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees - trees that could bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood.

That project, which as many of you here today know, became known as the Green Belt Movement, and earned my mother the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, has led not just to the planting of some 51 million trees and the restoration of rivers, watersheds, and rural landscapes across Africa, but the transformation of the lives of nearly a million women and their families to protect their environment, stand up for their rights and protect the commons.. Today, the fight against deforestation and environmental degradation continues, and women still remain the world's most effective weapons in this fight. I am proud to carry on my mother's work as Chair of the Green Belt Movement and director of the Wangari Maathai Institute at the University of Nairobi". ~ Wanjira Maathai

To close the ceremony, a delegation of youth from various organizations read inspiring quotes by Wangari Maathai in her honor.
Having met Wangari Maathai for the first time at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Peace Boat representative, Emilie McGlone, spoke about the positive influence that Wangari Maathai had on the educational programs that were developed with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. Green Belt Movement representative, Muriithi Kaburi was invited onboard one of Peace Boat's global voyages as a guest speaker. Whilst onboard, during the segment between Singapore and the Seychelles, Muriithi shared the philosophy of this community focused organization, which is responsible for planting over 30 million trees in Kenya and other parts of Africa.

After his time onboard Peace Boat's ship, Muriithi guided 15 participants on a four-day visit to a village near Nairobi, where they were able to experience the triumphs of the Green Belt Movement first hand, by interacting with local people from the Kamba tribe. Through Muriithi's lectures, discussion groups and the exposure programme to Kenya, Peace Boat participants became aware of the strong connection between the environment and peace. In honor of Wangari Maathai and her incredible work for environmental protection and community building, Peace Boat will continue to partner with the Green Belt Movement to promote a culture of peace and sustainability around the world.

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