It is with sadness that a friend of mine told me this morning that yesterday Dr. Wangari Maathai lost her brave battle with cancer. A wonderful woman has passed on, one who inspires by showing what one person who cares can accomplish, once they decide to focus on a problem.
Dr. Maathai , upon graduating from high school in Kenya, completed her university education in the USA. When she returned to Kenya, she began working with women to improve their livelihoods by increasing their access to such resources as firewood for their cooking fires, and clean water. This led her to advocate for better management of natural resources, for sustainability, and justice. She became an environmentalist, activist and champion of women's rights. (You can see why I admire her so much.)
In 1977, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, which mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to plant 47 million trees, improving life for people in poverty, and restoring a degraded environment.
The doctor was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee praised "the holistic nature of her work", citing her "strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions."
Dr. Maathai has been quoted as saying, "We cannot tire and give up. We owe it to present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk."
To the good doctor, changing the world is as simple and basic as planting a tree. And now millions of them bloom in the land of her birth because of her.