“I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it.”- Wangari Maathai

Today, WEDO mourns the loss but celebrates the life of our great friend, visionary, sister and ally, Professor Wangari Maathai, who passed away last night in Nairobi at the age of 71.

Her passing is a reminder of the tremendous community she helped to start and the vision for a sustainable planet, which we remain dedicated to realizing. As a mentor, she inspired us; as a leader and teacher, she demonstrated that change is possible.

Wangari Muta Mary Jo Maathai (1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011) was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. She was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights.

In 1986, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005. In 2011, Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer.

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