Wangari Maathai is the Kenyan Assistant Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Established in 1977 the Green Belt Movement is, in its simplest form, a grass-roots tree-planting programme to address Kenyan environmental degradation. Wangari Maathai however takes a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human and women’s rights in particular. By engaging women in the regeneration of their local environment the GBM inspires them to start taking a more active role in the decisions that affect their lives, their communities and the systems that govern them. With desertification reduced, and water supplies and agricultural yields increased, tensions over the division of scarce resources also fades.
The Green Belt Movement International has now been established, empowering people across Africa to nurture their leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and advocating international good governance, environmental stewardship and a culture of peace.
Maathai also played a leading global role in the Jubilee 2000 Africa Campaign, for the cancellation of unpayable African debts. More recently, her campaign against land-grabbing and the rapacious re-allocation of forest land has received considerable attention.
Wangari Maathai has addressed the United Nations on several occasions, speaking on behalf of women and serving on the Commissions for Global Governance and the Future. Her receipt of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2004 confirmed international recognition for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation.
‘Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement demonstrate the intimate connection between sustainable management of Africa’s rich natural resources, democracy, good governance and peace. Such are the solutions that will bring new light to Africa. I hope the world will support her vision of hope’.
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