Wangari Maathai portrait by Martin Rowe

Wangari Muta Maathai ( Nyeri, Kenya, April 1 of 1940 - September 25 of 2011 ) was an activist policy, and environmental Kenya. In 2004 she received the Nobel Peace Prize for "his contributions to sustainable development, to democracy and peace. " She was the first African woman to receive this award. Dr. Maathai was also a member elected in the parliament and Minister of Environment and Natural Resources in the government led by Mwai Kibaki.


After finishing school, Maathai studied Biology in the United States and in Germany. Bachelor's degree in biology from Mount St. Scholastica (now Benedictine College) in 1964 and a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Then she returned to Kenya, the University of Nairobi where she received the first doctorate degree awarded to a woman from East Africa (doctorate in veterinary medicine ). In 1971 she held the post of professor in the Department of Anatomy at the Veterinary University of Nairobi, (later to become head of that department).

Activism and politics

In 1977 she founded the Green Belt Movement, a sort of lobby ecologist responsible for planting over 30 million trees across the country, to prevent erosion of soil, thereby improving the quality of life of women who carried out. This made her deserve the affectionate nickname Tree Woman. Since then, Tree woman has become very active in environmental issues and for women.

Under the regime of President Daniel Arap Moi, she was jailed several times and was violently attacked for demanding multi-party elections and an end to corruption and tribal politics. With virtually alone she saved Uhuru Park in Nairobi in 1989 to stop construction of a housing development promoted by the partners of President Moi. Maathai was re-elected to parliament as MP in December 2002, with 98% of the vote, when President Mwai Kibaki won the elections in Uhuru Kenyatta. Since 2003 has been appointed Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife. In the same year she founded the Mazingira Green Party of Kenya, an environmentalist political party character.

On March 28th of 2005, was chosen as the first president of the Economic, Social and Cultural AU (African Union's Economic, Social and Cultural Council).

Nobel Peace Prize

"Maathai endured with courage the former oppressive regime in Kenya," said the Norwegian Nobel Committee to proclaim reading Nobel Prize winner for Peace 2004. "Her unique forms of action have contributed to pay attention to political oppression, nationally and internationally. It has been well of inspiration for many in the struggle for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to improve their situation. "


Maathai was a stir among the media when, in the press conference that followed the announcement of the prize, suggested that the virus HIV causes AIDS was the product of genetic engineering and was later released in Africa by Western scholars not identified as a weapon of mass destruction to "punish blacks." Only a small minority support this conspiracy theory of AIDS, which is not unique. Nuanced and has since softened its stance.


Wangari Maathai died on September 25th of 2011 because of cancer.


Some of the most important prizes and awards were as follows:

  • 1984: Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize or)
  • 1991: Goldman Environmental Prize
  • 1991: Africa Prize
  • 1993: Edinburgh Medal
  • 2004: Petra Kelly Prize
  • 2004: Sophie Prize
  • 2004: Nobel Peace Prize Android app