Dr. Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011) was an environmentalist, women’s rights advocate, social justice activist, founder of The Green Belt Movement and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Born in rural Kenya, Maathai went on to obtain a PhD and in 1977, while serving in The National Council of Women in Kenya, she received complaints from rural Kenyan women that their food supply was not secure, the water in the streams was drying up and they were having to walk farther distances to get firewood.
Maathai believed that all people, regardless of social status, deserved equal access to clean natural resources such as firewood and clean water for cooking, and she was a tireless advocate for smarter management of natural resources. By developing community-based initiatives such as tree planting, Maathai aimed to provide communities with equal access to natural resources and promote environmental conservation; these initiatives eventually developed into The Green Belt Movement, which continues doing Maathai’s work and carrying out her vision.
Today, The Green Belt Movement is divided into three main activity areas:
- Community Empowerment and Education
- Tree Planting
Community Empowerment and Education is a vital part of The Green Belt Movement, as it educates communities on their rights and teaches them about the positive impact of tree planting. It also teaches people about the effects of climate change on their resources and how they can create access to the resources they need.
Tree planting was at the heart of Wangari Maathai’s vision for creating sustainable livelihoods for all people, and it’s still at the heart of The Green Belt Movement today. Tree planting helps conserve biodiversity, reduce impacts of climate change and restore ecosystems, but most importantly it provides disadvantaged communities with direct access to the resources it needs most.
Advocacy is never-ending work and is done at grassroots and international levels. The devastating effects of climate change are making this work more and more necessary, and the best way to honour Wangari Maathai and the brilliant organisation she started is to donate to The Green Belt Movement and help them continue the important work they do.