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First African Woman Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dies

Ashley Johnson

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Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace prize, died of cancer on Sunday, September 25. She was

Maathai was born in the central town of Nyeri, which lays within the foothills of Mount Kenya. At the age of 20 she won a scholarship to study in the United States, where she earned a Masters degree as well as a PhD in veterinary sciences.

71 years old, and she leaves behind a nation and a world that not only embraced her but loved and supported her entirely.

Maathai was born in the central town of Nyeri, which lays within the foothills of Mount Kenya. At the age of 20 she won a scholarship to study in the United States, where she earned a Masters degree as well as a PhD in veterinary sciences.

In the 70’s, Maathai set up the Green Belt Movement; this movement has grown to pay the poor rural women of Kenya for the planting of trees. So far, this movement has helped in the planting of 30 million trees all around Kenya. This is in hopes of helping to slow, if not reverse, the trend towards environmental degradation as well as global warming.

Her environmentalism was combined with social and political activism which earned her a reputation and a standing that was far beyond the limits of the Green Belt Movement.

Maathai truly became an icon for the women in Africa and elsewhere in the world as she fought against prejudicial and corrupted politicians. This earned her numerous arrests and beatings for her efforts to purge and protect women.

In the 80’s and ’90s, Maathai clashed against the government of former President Daniel Arap Moi as she tried to halt the forest clearances and land grabs used by politicians. This was being done only to enrich the politicians and to repay political favors.

In 2004, she became the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, which was given to her for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.

Professor Maathai’s death is untimely and a great loss to all who knew her. The statement made by her family said that “she was a great mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine; [she was] admired [for] her determination to make the world a more peaceful, healthier, and better place.”

The nation of Kenya as well as the world will remember her as a committed champion of the environment and sustainable development, as well as a prominent women’s rights leader and the challenger of world democracy.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
First African Woman Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dies