Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai was widely respected for her roles as an environmentalist, feminist, politician, professor and human rights advocate. She was the first woman from East or Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. Dr. Maathai began a movement to reforest her country by paying poor women a few shillings to plant trees and in 1977 she founded the Green Belt Movement with a mission to plant trees across Kenya to fight erosion and to create firewood for fuel and jobs for women. She toured the world, speaking out against environmental degradation and poverty, which she recognised as being intimately connected – she erased the distinctions between environmentalism, feminism, democratization, and human rights advocacy and saw a direct connection between problems such as deforestation, soil erosion and poverty.