Professor Wangari Maathai
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940. Professor Maathai obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas (1964). She subsequently earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh (1966) before pursuing doctoral studies in Germany and at the University of Nairobi. She obtained a PhD (1971) from the latter, where she also taught veterinary anatomy, becoming the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively. In both cases, she was the first woman to attain those positions in the region.
Professor Maathai was active in the National Council of Women of Kenya in 1976-87 and chaired it from 1981 to 1987. In 1976, while she was serving at the National Council of Women, she introduced the idea of community-based tree-planting. She continued to develop this idea into a broad-based grassroots organization whose main focus is poverty reduction and environmental conservation through tree-planting. What became known as the Green Belt Movement has assisted women in planting more than 40 million trees on private farms and community lands including farms, schools and church compounds. In 1986 the Green Belt Movement established a pan-African Green Belt ...