Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, was laid to rest yesterday after suffering from cancer. She was 71 years old.
Maathai is best known for her 1970’s Green Belt Movement, an organization she founded in conjunction with the National Council of Women of Kenya, which promoted environmental conservation and economic development as a means to empower women in the rural areas of Kenya. Through the program, over 30,000 women were taught to plant trees, and fight against deforestation and restore their main source of fuel for cooking.
An activist who fought for freedom and the right to peace and democracy, Maathai endured violence and constant opposition throughout her life’s work in Kenya. In a statement announcing her as the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the following: “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”.
In 2005, she was elected the first president of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council.
Read more at The New York Times.