Maathai, Wangari

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Wangari Muta Maathai was born in 1940 to a farming family in the highlands of Mount Kenya in Nyeri, Kenya. At a young age, Maathai became interested in Environmental Sciences. In 1964, she obtained a Biological Sciences degree from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas. She went on to earn a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1966. After receiving her Master of Science degree, she became the first woman from her region to obtain a Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi in 1971. While teaching veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi, Maathai became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy (1976) and an associate professor (1977). Again, Maathai was the first woman from her region to attain positions of such stature. (Les Prix Nobel, 2005)

In 1976, Wangari Maathai became active in the National Council of Women of Kenya. While she was serving as the chairwoman in the National Council of Women, she began to structure a grassroots organization that encouraged women’s groups to plant trees in order to conserve the environment. It was this small grassroots effort that has assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on farms, schools, and churches. This effort eventually became known as the philanthropic organization called the Green Belt Movement. (Les Prix Nobel, 2005)

Wangari Maathai is internationally admired for her persistence in the areas of environmental conservation, human rights, and democracy. She has taken the opportunity to address the United Nations on several occasions and has spoken at special sessions of the General Assembly on behalf of women. Maathai has been given numerous awards because of her philanthropic work with the Green Belt Movement and other organizations. The most notable award given to Wangari Maathai was the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. (Les Prix Nobel, 2005)

In December 2002, Professor Maathai received another honor when she was elected to the Kenyan Parliament with...
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