Maathai moved into a small home she had purchased years before, and focused on the NCWK while she searched for employment. In the course of her work through the NCWK, she was approached by "Wilhelm Elsrud, executive director of the "Norwegian Forestry Society. He wished to partner with the Green Belt Movement and offered her the position of coordinator. Employed again, Maathai poured her efforts into the Green Belt Movement. Along with the partnership for the Norwegian Forestry Society, the movement had also received "seed money" from the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Women. These funds allowed for the expansion of the movement, for hiring additional employees to oversee the operations, and for continuing to pay a small stipend to the women who planted seedlings throughout the country. It allowed her to refine the operations of the movement, paying a small stipend to the women's husbands and sons who were literate and able to keep accurate records of seedlings planted.
The UN held the third global women's conference in Nairobi. During the conference, Maathai arranged seminars and presentations to describe the work the Green Belt Movement was doing in Kenya. She escorted delegates to see nurseries and plant trees. She met Peggy Snyder, the head of UNIFEM, and "Helvi Sipilä, the first woman appointed a UN assistant secretary general. The conference helped to expand funding for the Green Belt Movement and led to the movement's establishing itself outside Kenya. In 1986, with funding from UNEP, the movement expanded throughout Africa and led to the foundation of the Pan-African Green Belt Network. Forty-five representatives from fifteen African countries travelled to Kenya over the next three years to learn how to set up similar programs in their own countries to combat desertification, deforestation, water crises, and rural hunger. The attention the movement received in the media led to Maathai's being honoured with numerous awards. The government of Kenya, however, demanded that the Green Belt Movement separate from the NCWK, believing the latter should focus solely on women's issues, not the environment. Therefore, in 1987, Maathai stepped down as chairman of the NCWK and focused on the newly separate non-governmental organization.
In the latter half of the 1980s, the Kenyan government came down against Maathai and the Green Belt Movement. The single-party regime opposed many of the movement's positions regarding democratic rights. The government invoked a colonial-era law prohibiting groups of more than nine people from meeting without a government license. In 1988, the Green Belt Movement carried out pro-democracy activities such as registering voters for the election and pressing for constitutional reform and freedom of expression. The government carried out electoral fraud in the elections to maintain power, according to Maathai.
In October 1989, Maathai learned of a plan to construct the 60-story Kenya Times Media Trust Complex in "Uhuru Park. The complex was intended to house the headquarters of KANU, the Kenya Times newspaper, a trading centre, offices, an auditorium, galleries, shopping malls, and parking space for 2,000 cars. The plan also included a large statue of President Daniel arap Moi. Maathai wrote many letters in protest to, among others, the Kenya Times, the Office of the President, the Nairobi city commission, the provincial commissioner, the minister for environment and natural resources, the executive directors of UNEP and the Environment Liaison Centre International, the executive director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the ministry of public works, and the permanent secretary in the department of international security and administration all received letters. She wrote to Sir John Johnson, the British high commissioner in Nairobi, urging him to intervene with Robert Maxwell, a major shareholder in the project, equating the construction of a tower in Uhuru Park to such construction in "Hyde Park or "Central Park and maintaining that it could not be tolerated.
The government refused to respond to her inquiries and protests, instead responding through the media that Maathai was "a crazy woman"; that denying the project in Uhuru Park would take more than a small portion of public park land; and proclaiming the project as a "fine and magnificent work of architecture" opposed by only the "ignorant few." On 8 November 1989, Parliament expressed outrage at Maathai's actions, complaining of her letters to foreign organizations and calling the Green Belt Movement a bogus organization and its members "a bunch of divorcees". They suggested that if Maathai was so comfortable writing to Europeans, perhaps she should go live in Europe.
Despite Maathai's protests, as well as popular protest growing throughout the city, ground was broken at Uhuru Park for construction of the complex on 15 November 1989. Maathai sought an injunction in the Kenya High Court to halt construction, but the case was thrown out on 11 December. In his first public comments pertaining to the project, President Daniel arap Moi stated that those who opposed the project had "insects in their heads". On 12 December, in Uhuru Park, during a speech celebrating independence from the British, President Moi suggested Maathai be a proper woman in the African tradition and respect men and be quiet. She was forced by the government to vacate her office, and the Green Belt Movement was moved into her home. The government then audited the Green Belt Movement in an apparent attempt to shut it down. Despite all this, her protests, the government's response – and the media coverage it garnered – led foreign investors to cancel the project in January 1990.
In January 1992, it came to the attention of Maathai and other pro-democracy activists that a list of people were targeted for assassination and that a government-sponsored coup was possible. Maathai's name was on the list. The pro-democracy group, known as the "Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), presented its information to the media, calling for a general election. Later that day, Maathai received a warning that one of their members had been arrested. Maathai decided to barricade herself in her home. Shortly thereafter, police arrived and surrounded the house. She was besieged for three days before police cut through the bars she had installed on her windows, came in, and arrested her. She and the other pro-democracy activists who had been arrested were charged with spreading malicious rumours, sedition and treason. After a day and a half in jail, they were brought to a hearing and released on bail. A variety of international organizations and eight senators (including "Al Gore and "Edward M. Kennedy) put pressure on the Kenyan government to substantiate the charges against the pro-democracy activists or risk damaging relations with the United States. In November 1992, the Kenyan government dropped the charges.
On 28 February 1992, while released on bail, Maathai and others took part in a "hunger strike in a corner of Uhuru Park, which they labelled Freedom Corner, to pressure the government to release "political prisoners. After four days of hunger strike, on 3 March 1992, the police forcibly removed the protesters. Maathai and three others were knocked unconscious by police and hospitalized. "President "Daniel arap Moi called her "a mad woman" and "a threat to the order and security of the country". The attack drew international criticism. The "US State Department said it was "deeply concerned" by the violence and by the forcible removal of the hunger strikers. When the prisoners were not released, the protesters – mostly mothers of those in prison – moved their protest to All Saints Cathedral, seat of the "Anglican Archbishop in Kenya, across from Uhuru Park. The protest there continued, with Maathai contributing frequently, until early 1993, when the prisoners were finally released.
During this time, Maathai was recognized with various awards internationally, but the Kenyan government did not appreciate her work. In 1991 she received the "Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco and the "Hunger Project's Africa Prize for Leadership in London. "CNN aired a three-minute segment about the Goldman prize, but when it aired in Kenya, that segment was cut out. In June 1992, during the long protest at Uhuru Park, both Maathai and President arap Moi travelled to "Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Environment and Development ("Earth Summit). The Kenyan government accused Maathai of inciting women and encouraging them to strip at Freedom Corner, urging that she not be allowed to speak at the summit. Despite this, Maathai was chosen to be a chief spokesperson at the summit.
During the first multi-party "election of Kenya, in 1992, Maathai strove to unite the opposition and fair elections in Kenya. The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) had fractured into "FORD-Kenya (led by "Oginga Odinga) and "FORD-Asili (led by "Kenneth Matiba); former "vice president "Mwai Kibaki had left the ruling "Kenya African National Union (KANU) party, and formed the "Democratic Party. Maathai and many others believed such a fractured opposition would lead to KANU's retaining control of the country, so they formed the Middle Ground Group in an effort to unite the opposition. Maathai was chosen to serve as its chairperson. Also during the election, Maathai and like-minded opposition members formed the Movement for Free and Fair Elections. Despite their efforts, the opposition did not unite, and the ruling KANU party used intimidation and state-held media to win the election, retaining control of parliament.
The following year, ethnic clashes occurred throughout Kenya. Maathai believed they were incited by the government, who had warned of stark consequences to "multi-party democracy. Maathai travelled with friends and the press to areas of violence in order to encourage them to cease fighting. With the Green Belt Movement she planted "trees of peace", but before long her actions were opposed by the government. The conflict areas were labeled as "no go zones", and in February 1993 the president claimed that Maathai had masterminded a distribution of leaflets inciting "Kikuyus to attack "Kalenjins. After her friend and supporter Dr. Makanga was kidnapped, Maathai chose to go into hiding. While in hiding, Maathai was invited to a meeting in Tokyo of the "Green Cross International, an environmental organization recently founded by former Soviet leader "Mikhail Gorbachev. When Maathai responded that she could not attend as she did not believe the government would allow her to leave the country and she was in hiding, Gorbachev pressured the government of Kenya to allow her to travel freely. President arap Moi denied limiting her travel, and she was allowed to leave the country, although too late for the meeting in Tokyo. Maathai was again recognized internationally, and she flew to "Scotland to receive the Edinburgh Medal in April 1993. In May she went to Chicago to receive the "Jane Addams International Women's Leadership Award, and in June she attended the UN's "World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.
During the "elections of 1997, Maathai again wished to unite the opposition in order to defeat the ruling party. In November, less than two months before the election, she decided to run for parliament and for president as a candidate of the "Liberal Party. Her intentions were widely questioned in the press; many believed she should simply stick to running the Green Belt Movement and stay out of politics. On the day of the election, a rumour that Maathai had withdrawn from the election and endorsed another candidate was printed in the media. Maathai garnered few votes and lost the election.
In the summer of 1998, Maathai learned of a government plan to privatize large areas of public land in the Karura Forest, just outside Nairobi, and give it to political supporters. Maathai protested this through letters to the government and the press. She went with the Green Belt Movement to Karura Forest, planting trees and protesting the destruction of the forest. On 8 January 1999, a group of protesters including Maathai, six opposition MPs, journalists, international observers, and Green Belt members and supporters returned to the forest to plant a tree in protest. The entry to the forest was guarded by a large group of men. When she tried to plant a tree in an area that had been designated to be cleared for a golf course, the group was attacked. Many of the protesters were injured, including Maathai, four MPs, some of the journalists, and German environmentalists. When she reported the attack to the police, they refused to return with her to the forest to arrest her attackers. However, the attack had been filmed by Maathai's supporters, and the event provoked international outrage. Student protests broke out throughout Nairobi, and some of these groups were violently broken up by the police. Protests continued until 16 August 1999, when the president announced that he was banning all allocation of public land.
In 2001, the government again planned to take public forest land and give it to its supporters. While protesting this and collecting "petition signatures on 7 March 2001, in Wang'uru village near "Mount Kenya, Maathai was again arrested. The following day, following international and popular protest at her arrest, she was released without being charged. On 7 July 2001, shortly after planting trees at Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park in Nairobi to commemorate "Saba Saba Day, Maathai was again arrested. Later that evening, she was again released without being charged. In January 2002, Maathai returned to teaching as the Dorothy McCluskey Visiting Fellow for Conservation at the "Yale University's "School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She remained there until June 2002, teaching a course on sustainable development focused on the work of the Green Belt Movement.
Upon her return to Kenya, Maathai again campaigned for parliament in the "2002 elections, this time as a candidate of the "National Rainbow Coalition, the umbrella organization which finally united the opposition. On 27 December 2002, the Rainbow Coalition defeated the ruling party "Kenya African National Union, and in "Tetu Constituency Maathai won with an overwhelming 98% of the vote. In January 2003, she was appointed Assistant Minister in the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources and served in that capacity until November 2005. She founded the "Mazingira Green Party of Kenya in 2003 to allow candidates to run on a platform of conservation as embodied by the Green Belt Movement. It is a member of the "Federation of Green Parties of Africa and the "Global Greens.
Wangari Maathai (2006)
Wangari Maathai was awarded the 2004 "Nobel Peace Prize for her "contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace". She had received a call from "Ole Danbolt Mjos, chair of the "Norwegian Nobel Committee, on 8 October informing her of the news. She became the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the prize.
|“||Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in "Kenya. Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression—nationally and internationally. She has served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to better their situation.||”|
|— The "Norwegian Nobel Committee, in a statement announcing her as the 2004 "Nobel Peace Prize winner.|
The 2016 documentary Innsaei: The Power of Intuition is dedicated to her memory.
Controversy arose when it was reported by "The Standard that Maathai had claimed HIV/AIDS was ""deliberately created by Western scientists to decimate the African population." Maathai denied making the allegations, but The Standard has stood by its reports.
In a 2004 interview with "Time, in response to questions concerning that report, Maathai replied, "I have no idea who created AIDS and whether it is a biological agent or not. But I do know things like that don't come from the moon. I have always thought that it is important to tell people the truth, but I guess there is some truth that must not be too exposed," and when asked what she meant, she continued, "I'm referring to AIDS. I am sure people know where it came from. And I'm quite sure it did not come from the monkeys." In response she issued the following statement:
|“||I have warned people against false beliefs and misinformation such as attributing this disease to a curse from God or believing that sleeping with a virgin cures the infection. These prevalent beliefs in my region have led to an upsurge in rape and violence against children. It is within this context, also complicated by the cultural and religious perspective, that I often speak. I have therefore been shocked by the ongoing debate generated by what I am purported to have said. It is therefore critical for me to state that I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people. Such views are wicked and destructive.||”|
On 28 March 2005, Maathai was elected the first president of the "African Union's "Economic, Social and Cultural Council and was appointed a goodwill ambassador for an initiative aimed at protecting the "Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem. In 2006, she was one of the eight flagbearers at the "2006 "Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony. Also on 21 May 2006, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by and gave the commencement address at "Connecticut College. She supported the International Year of Deserts and Desertification program. In November 2006, she spearheaded the "United Nations Billion Tree Campaign. Maathai was one of the founders of the "Nobel Women's Initiative along with sister Nobel Peace laureates "Jody Williams, "Shirin Ebadi, "Rigoberta Menchu Tum, "Betty Williams and "Mairead Corrigan Maguire. Six women representing North America and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa decided to bring together their experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality. It is the goal of the Nobel Women's Initiative to help strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world.
In August 2006, then "United States Senator "Barack Obama traveled to Kenya. His father was educated in America through the same program as Maathai. She and the Senator met and planted a tree together in Uhuru Park in Nairobi. Obama called for freedom of the press to be respected, saying, "Press freedom is like tending a garden; it continually has to be nurtured and cultivated. The citizenry has to value it because it's one of those things that can slip away if we're not vigilant." He deplored global ecological losses, singling out President "George W. Bush's refusal to join the "United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its subsidiary, the "Kyoto Protocol.
Maathai was defeated in the "Party of National Unity's primary elections for its parliamentary candidates in November 2007 and chose to instead run as the candidate of a smaller party. She was defeated in the "December 2007 parliamentary election. She called for a recount of votes in the presidential election (officially won by "Mwai Kibaki, but disputed by the opposition) in her constituency, saying that both sides should feel the outcome was fair and that there were indications of fraud.
In June 2009, Maathai was named as one of PeaceByPeace.com's first peace heroes. Until her death in 2011, Maathai served on the Eminent Advisory Board of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa ("AWEPA).
Wangari Maathai died on 25 September 2011 of complications arising from "ovarian cancer while receiving treatment at a Nairobi hospital.
In 2012, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests "CPF, an international consortium of 14 organizations, secretariats and institutions working on international forest issues, launched the inaugural Wangari Maathai Forest Champion Award. The 2012 inaugural winner of the Award was Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
Other winners include:
On 25 September 2013, the Wangari Maathai Trees and Garden was dedicated on the lawn of the University of Pittsburgh's "Cathedral of Learning. The memorial includes two "red maples symbolizing Maathai’s "commitment to the environment, her founding of the Green Belt Movement, and her roots in Kenya and in Pittsburgh" and a flower garden planted in a circular shape that representing her "global vision and dedication to the women and children of the world" with an ornamental maple tree in the middle signifying "how one small seed can change the world".
In 2014, at what would have been her 50-year reunion, her Mount St. Scholastica classmates and Benedictine College unveiled a statue of the Nobel laureate at her alma mater's Atchison, Kansas campus.
In October 2016, Forest Road in Nairobi was renamed to Wangari Maathai Road for her efforts to oppose several attempts to degrade forests and public parks through the Green Belt Movement.
|""||Wikiquote has quotations related to: Wangari Maathai|
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|Audio: Wangari Maathai in conversation on the BBC World Service discussion programme "The Forum|
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