Wangari Maathai

Early Life and Education

Wangari Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in April of 1940. She is known for initiating the Green Belt Movement  as well as for being the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

She earned her Bachelors in Biological Sciences and her masters of Science at Mount St. Scholastic College in 1994 and at the University of Pittsburg in 1966, respectively. She then attended the University of Nairobi to earn her PhD in Anatomy. Maathai was the first woman in East/Central Africa to receive a doctorate.

Wangari Maathai in Yellow
Wangari Maathai. Copyright Nobel Women’s Initiative


While at the University of Nairobi, Maathai became the Veterinary Anatomy department chair in 1976 and an associate professor in 1977.

Maathai began to participate in Kenya’s National Council of Women in 1976, and from 1981-1987 she had the honor of being its Chair. It was in this setting that she came up with the idea of planting trees based within the community

Green Belt Movement

Rural women were reporting difficulties in respect to accessing water and food supplies, and wood for firewood and fencing. Maathai realized that environmental degradation and deforestation contributed to the problems of poverty.

So Wangari Maathai founded The GreenBelt Movement in 1977 with the goal of conserving the environment and reducing poverty.

Wangari Helping Planting trees. Copyright Green Belt Movement

Since then, the GreenBelt Movement has planted over 40 Million trees on churches, schools, and farms in various communities, expanding and inspiring others to start movements within their own countries.

Awards, Honors, and Achievements


Wangari Maathai had the honor to be the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition, Wangari Maathai has won a numerous amount of other awards, including The Conservation Scientist Award (2004), The 2007 Nelson Mandela Award of Health and Human Rights, and the Earth Hall of Fame (2010).


Furthermore, Wangari Maathai was named the 2009 UN Messenger of Peace by the UN Secretary General and was listed on the UN’s Environmental Program Global 500 Hall of Fame.

For a full list of Achievements, see here Awards

Photographed by Eric Feferberg. Copyright Pressen Bld AB 2004


Wangari Maathai passed away on 25 September of 2011.

She has inspired many through her “persistent struggle for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation” (

In addition, she  has inspired the establishment of the University of Nairobi’s Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, in respect of their former graduate.

Wangari Maathai. Copyright Green Belt Movement








Works Cited

“Biography.” The Green Belt Movement. Accessed 28 Jan. 2017.

The Green Belt Movement. The Green Belt Movement. Accessed 29 Jan. 2017.

“Wangari Maathai – Biography.” Nobel Media AB 2014. Accessed28 Jan. 2017.

“Wangari Maathai – Facts.” Nobel Media AB 2014. Accessed 28 Jan. 2017.

“Wangari Maathai: Founding Member – Kenya, 2004.” Nobel Women’s Initiative. Accessed 29 Jan. 2014

“Wangari Maathai – Photo Gallery”. Nobel Media AB 2014. Accessed 29 Jan 2017.

Who We Are.” The Green Belt Movement, 29 Jan. 2017

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