Wangari Maathai

Environmentalist and Politician Wangari Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya. In 1964 she got a degree in Biology from Mount St. Scholastica College, she then earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh two years later. She continued her education in Africa and in 1971 she got a PhD from University of Nairobi, this made her the first female doctor from Central and East Africa. She then became an associate professor and given the chair of Veterinary Anatomy in 1976 and 1977, in both of these cases she was the first woman to do so.

Wangari Maathai receiving an honorific doctorate at the Willamette University, United States, 2005. Photograph by Thomas Patterson, 2005.


The Greenbelt Movement

Wangari Maathai was best known for founding what is called “The Greenbelt Movement”. In 1976 she introduced the idea of stabilizing economics by encouraging tree planting. The movement encourages impoverished peoples in rural towns to plant trees for an income, this not only helps the environment but also helps the surrounding villages by giving them more resources and more stable economics. In 2004 she was awarded the nobel peace prize as a result of her work with the Greenbelt Movement.

To learn more in depth about the work that the Greenbelt Movement does click here

Wangari Maathai holding her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Dec. 10, 2004.CreditPool photo by Bjorn Sigurdson

Other Accomplishments

Wangari Maathai’s passion was defending the environment, she often found herself at the center of political movements. She spoke out against poverty and environmental abuse and often caused problems for the Kenyan government, even leading protests to stop potentially destructive building projects.

The Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, center, in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004. CreditRadu Sigheti/Reuters

A List of her Most Recent Awards (as provided by

2010: Earth Hall of Fame, Kyoto (Japan)
2009: Humanity 4 Water Award for Outstanding Commitment 2 Action
2009: The Order of the Rising Sun, Japan
2009: Judge, 2009 Geotourism Challenge, National Geographic, USA
2009: NAACP Chairman’s Award, USA
2008: Dignitas Humana Award, St John’s School of Theology, USA
2008: Cinema Verite, Honorary President, France
2008: Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)Honorary Fellowship, UK
2007: The Nelson Mandela Award for Health & Human Rights, South Africa
2007: The Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, India
2007: Cross of the Order of St Benedict, Benedictine College, Kansas, USA
2007: World Citizenship AwardWorld Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
2006: The Indira Gandhi International Award for Peace, Disarmament & Development, India
2006: Premio Defensa Medio Ambiente, Club Internacional De Prensa, Spain
2006: 6th in 100 Greatest Eco-Heroes of All Time, The Environment Agency, UK
2006: Medal for Distinguished Achievement, University of Pennsylvania, USA
2006: Woman of Achievement Award from the American Biographical Institute Inc., USA
2006: The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Milele (Lifetime) Achievement Award
2006: Legion D’Honneur, Government of France
2006: The IAIA Global Environment AwardInternational Association for Impact Assessment, Norway
2006: Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Award, USA
2006: World Citizenship Award

Works Cited

Featured Images: Wangari Maathai, Ricardo Medina, MAP Magazine, Cstraight Media -. “Biography.” Biography | The Green Belt Movement. The Greenbelt Movement, n.d. Web. 01 May 2017. <;

Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dies at 71.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 01 May 2017. <;.

MLA style: “The Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 to Wangari Maathai – Press Release”. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 2 May 2017. <;

“Wangari Maathai.” Nobel Women’s Initiative. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2017. <;.


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