Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in Kenya. The first woman in East and central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Professor Maathai pioneered the concept of mobilizing communities to protect their environment through tree planting in 1976, while an active member of the National Council of Women of Kenya. A year later she developed this idea into a grassroots organization, the Green Belt Movement.

Dr. Maathai’s memoir, Unbowed, shows that she is a magnificent and courageous leader who stood up for the oppressed and provided hope for better tomorrows by demonstrating that if a person possesses a will to make change, change can and will occur.

The Green Belt Movement started with tree planting, a simple, elegant, and pragmatic solution to the problem of environmental degradation. The central philosophy of the Green Belt Movement is the empowerment of individuals so that they can take action to improve their lives. Through its process of mobilizing people to take action, the Green belt Movement has led to the planting of over 30 million trees in Kenya, the improvement of the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and their families, and peaceful democratic change at the national level. Dr. Maathai’s vision for the future is “a world in which the environment, democratic space and peace are secure and citizens (young and old) are empowered to take action.” The New York Times wrote that Dr. Maathai “…has played a similarly inspirational role for many women, a role that will only increase now that she has been named the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize.”

This event took place on September 28th, 2009, in the Hall Building at Concordia University.

Years funded: 2009-10

Amount allocated: $8,000.00

Project leader: CSU


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