Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
2011 was a year of hardship. A year of debt crises and the recession. It was the year of the food drought in East Africa. It was also the year that we lost one of the super heroine of Africa. A daughter of Africa. Wangari Muta Mary Josephine Maathai. She had been battling ovarian cancer for some time.
Born on 1 April 1940 in Kenya, Wangari was an environmentalist and political activist. Maathai started the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organisation that focussed on the planting of trees and womens rights. Yes, ladies this mighty woman did fight for our rights. Equality was her message. In 2004 she went ahead to be the first african woman to receive the nobel peace prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She was also a member of parliament and served in the Kibaki presidency between 2003 and 2005.
In 1966 Maathai was awarded her Msc in biological science from the university of Pittsburgh. This achievement led her to get a job as a research assistant to a professor of zoology at the university college Nairobi, Kenya. However she did not get the job because upon her return to the university she was told that her job had been given to someone else. Maathai always believed this was because she was a woman and also because of tribal bias.
This did not stop her from trying even harder. A couple months later she got another job. With this job she managed to open a general store and had her sisters work there. Maathai did everything to empower herself and her family. In this very year she met her husband to be Mwangi Maathai another Kenyan who had studied in the United States at the same time as she earlier had. In 1967 she travelled to the university of Giessen in pursuit of a doctorate. She became the first woman in East Africa to receive a Ph.D.
This powerful African goddess went ahead to be a teacher, a senior lecturer and many other things not forgetting a mother to her three children. Through all the hardship she went through like being thrown into prison, being thrown out of her home or when the courts took her husband’s side at the time when he filed for divorce. He told the court that she was “too strong minded for a woman” and that he was “unable to control her”. If you ask us we would say “men are afraid of women who know what they want in life.”
Wangari Maathai went on to win lots and lots of other awards and I would not finish writing this piece if we are to go into every detail of her life. Everything she did was so that you and I can have a better world. Dear readers, especially you African woman out there, here is your inspiration. Our very own sister did it and so can we. You can achieve whatever you set your mind to. Everything a man can do a woman can do better. You better believe it.