Nobel Peace prize laureate Wangari Maathai Sc.D.'94, the women's rights and environmental leader from Kenya, and her daughter, Wanjira Mathai '94 spoke about the environment, the war in Iraq, debt and women's equality on the March 8 broadcast of Democracy Now.
Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940. In 1960, she won a Kennedy scholarship to study in America. She earned a master’s degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh and became the first woman in East Africa to earn a Ph.D. In 1976, under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Kenya, of which she was chairwoman from 1981 to 1987, she introduced the idea of planting trees through citizen foresters, and called this new organization the Green Belt Movement (GBM). She continued to develop the GBM into a broad-based, grassroots organization whose focus was tree planting by women’s groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. Through the Green Belt Movement, Maathai has assisted women in planting more than 30 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds in Kenya and all over East Africa.
Mathai is the international liaison for the world-renowned Green Belt Movement which was founded by her mother. She is a rising figure in Kenyan and international environmental, women's and social justice movements.
Democracy Now! is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 300 stations in North America. The program is hosted by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez and produced out of the Downtown Community Television Center, a community media center in New York City's Chinatown.