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Wangari Maathai: Sowing Seeds of Change


Presenting Wangari Maathai with the Nobel Peace Prize, the committee praised her “holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights, and women’s rights in particular.”

After earning a Master of Science degree in biology at Pitt in 1965, the Kenyan-born Maathai (1940-2011) became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate. She then founded the Green Belt Movement, which mobilizes Kenyans, many of them women, to plant trees—providing employment for them and renewable resources for their villages. Though Maathai was attacked and even imprisoned when her work ran afoul of powerful developers, she persevered and ultimately became Kenya’s assistant minister for environment and natural resources. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2004.

Maathai last visited Pitt in 2006, when she delivered an address about her 30-year effort to reforest Kenya by planting 30 million trees and the seeds of change for the future of women.