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Washington Post
Sat, Oct. 09, 2004

Kenyan woman wins Nobel Peace Prize
By Fred Barbash and Emily Wax

Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan firebrand who mobilized the women of Africa in a powerful crusade against deforestation called the "Green Belt Movement," will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004.

Friday's announcement, by the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee, makes her the first African woman to receive the $1.3 million prize, which is generally regarded as the world's highest tribute. It was the second straight year that a woman had won the peace prize. Last year, Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer in Iran, was recognized for her work promoting the rights of women and children.

Maathai, feminist, environmentalist and crusader against corruption in Kenya, is now her country's deputy environment minister.

Typically, the speculation about who would win this year's prize was all wrong, with most of it centering around immediate events, such as chaos in the Middle East and weapons of mass destruction. The "most mentioned" contender was Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Explaining the choice, Ole Danbolt Mjoes, head of the prize committee, said: "We have added a new dimension to the concept of peace. We have emphasized the environment, democracy building and human rights, and especially women's rights."

"I am absolutely overwhelmed," said Maathai, 64.

The award will be handed out in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10.

Among past laureates are Jimmy Carter, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, the Dalai Lama and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

While Maathai has not been widely known to the general public, she is a legend among global environmental activists and feminist leaders alike, and a presence at international environmental conferences. She has been described variously as an "ecofeminist," "ecowomanist" and "Kenya's Green Militant."

The impetus for Maathai's movement was deforestation in Kenya, a process that has taken 90 percent of the country's forest over the past 50 years. One of the consequences Maathai saw was that women and girls had to spend hours every day searching for wood for cooking fuel.

In 1978, Maathai, then a U.S.-educated college professor at the University of Nairobi, suggested the planting of trees as a way to help rural women survive the decrease of firewood. The movement spread across Africa, and was responsible for planting over 30 million trees. She expanded it to embrace human rights, women's rights and the politics of democracy.

In 1989, the deep-voiced and statuesque Maathai led a one-woman charge against the autocratic government of Daniel arap Moi, the former president, when he wanted to build a skyscraper and six-story statue of himself in gritty Nairobi's only public green space.

She lost her case in court. But because of her protest no financiers were willing to work on the project. Today, that area of the park is called "Freedom Corner."

From time to time she has been intimidated and even beaten by police in the course of her protests. She was hospitalized in Kenya in 1999 after being clubbed by guards hired by developers while she and her followers tried to plant trees in Karura forest.

In 1992, she was among a group of women who stripped naked in Nairobi to protest police torture. The police had beaten them to disperse their demonstration and, as she later said, the women "resorted to something they knew traditionally would act on the men. . . . They stripped to show their nakedness to their sons. It is a curse to see your mother naked."

"She was threatened physically and was called a busybody in the press, yet she didn't flinch," said Mwalimu Mati, deputy director of Transparency International, a watchdog group in Nairobi. "She's converted a lot of us to understand why the environment is so important. She worked along for a very long time and she deserves this recognition. Now she has the real moral authority to challenge people who are selfishly allocating themselves land."

In its citation Friday, the Nobel committee said: "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally."

Maathai earned a degree in biological sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan., in 1964. She received a master's degree two years later from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate from the University of Nairobi in 1971.

She was the first woman in east and central Africa to earn a doctorate degree and the first to become a professor at a major university.

"I have had the fortune of breaking a lot of records," Maathai said in a 1992 Washington Post interview. "First woman this. First woman that. And I think that created a lot of jealousy without me realizing. Sometimes we don't quite realize that not everybody's clapping when we're succeeding."

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MotherJones.com

Root Causes: An Interview with Wangari Maathai
The recent Nobel Peace Prize winner talks about sowing the seeds of democracy in Kenya.
Interviewed By Dave Gilson
January 5, 2005


In October, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize is the latest distinction in a 30-year career that’s been defined as much by Maathai’s accomplishments as the controversies she has sparked. After studying in the United States in the early 1960s, Maathai returned home to become the first East African woman to earn a PhD. Shortly afterwards, her parliamentarian husband initiated a messy divorce. She fought back by quitting her university deanship to run against him for his seat. Though she lost the race, she’d found her calling as a fiercely outspoken activist. In 1977, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental group that restored indigenous forests and assisted rural women by paying them to plant trees in their communities. It has since planted over 30 million trees in Kenya, provided work for tens of thousands of women, and been replicated in dozens of other African countries.

What made Maathai’s movement remarkable, and would eventually attract the attention of the Nobel committee, was how it erased the distinctions between environmentalism, feminism, democratization, and human rights advocacy. Maathai saw a direct connection between problems such as deforestation and soil erosion and the failures of Kenya’s one-party state. “I got pulled deeper and deeper and saw how these issues become linked to governance, to corruption, to dictatorship,” she says. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, she boldly confronted the country’s ruling party and its autocratic president, Daniel Arap Moi. In their most visible showdown, Maathai led a successful campaign against Moi’s plan to build a 62-story party headquarters, complete with a larger-than-life statue of himself, in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. Though her objections were largely environmental -- the park was one of the city’s few open green spaces -- it was clear that she also sought to humble a “Big Man” who was not used to being defied, especially by a woman. Moi and his allies vilified Maathai as an overeducated, man-hating subversive. She received death threats, was arrested more than a dozen times, and once was beaten unconscious by police. Several of her colleagues were killed and the Green Belt Movement was nearly outlawed. In the early 1990s, while the government fomented a wave of violence against opposition figures and the ethnic groups believed to be supporting them, Maathai went in and out of hiding. Her public appearances, like the one I tried to attend in March 1993, were often broken up by police. Maathai recalls this period with characteristic equanimity, maintaining she was never demoralized. “I knew in my mind I was doing the right thing,” she says.

Indeed, during the past two years, Maathai has been vindicated. In December 2002, Moi stepped down and Kenya held its first democratic elections. The opposition swept to power in a landslide; Maathai was elected to parliament and was appointed assistant secretary for Environment, Wildlife, and Natural Resources. The Nobel Prize, she says, is further confirmation that Kenya is finally on the right path. The prize is also a tribute to the 64-year old’s impact not simply as an environmentalist and activist, but as a role model for a generation of Kenyans who are enjoying the fruits of her labor. After the award was announced, she recalls, “Young people, especially girls, came up to me with tears in their eyes, saying how happy they were and how inspired they were.”

Wangari Maathai spoke to MotherJones.com from New York, where she had started a short visit to the U.S. to celebrate her Nobel and promote her new book, The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience.

MotherJones.com: What precipitated your moving beyond environmental issues to dealing with issues such as human rights and democracy?

Wangari Maathai:
When I first started, it was really an innocent response to the needs of women in rural areas. When we started planting trees to meet their needs, there was nothing beyond that. I did not see all the issues that I have to come to deal with. For me, one of the major reasons to move beyond just the planting of trees was that I have tendency to look at the causes of a problem. We often preoccupy ourselves with the symptoms, whereas if we went to the root cause of the problems, we would be able to overcome the problems once and for all. For instance, I tried to understand why we didn’t have clean drinking water, which I had when I was a child. The link between the rural population, the land, and natural resources is very direct. But when you have bad governance, of course, these resources are destroyed: The forests are deforested, there is illegal logging, there is soil erosion. I got pulled deeper and deeper and saw how these issues become linked to governance, to corruption, to dictatorship.

MJ.com: When you raised these issues, you became persona non grata with the government. Do you think you were seen as more or less of a threat because you were a woman?

WM: I think that because I was a woman, I was vulnerable. It was easy to persecute me without people feeling ashamed. It was easy to vilify me and project me as a woman who was not following the tradition of a “good African woman” and as a highly educated elitist who was trying to show innocent African women ways of doing things that were not acceptable to African men. It was easy for me to be ridiculed and for both men and women to perceive that maybe I’m a bit crazy because I’m educated in the West and I have lost some of my basic decency as an African woman -- as if being educated was something bad. That is something I had seen for a very long time: When people can’t use you, they ridicule what you represent. I was lucky that I understood that, because when one does not understand that, it is very easy to be broken and to be subdued.

MJ.com: At times, you had to go underground; you were arrested and beaten by the police. Why did this type of intimidation not work on you?

WM: I knew that I was not doing anything wrong, and I knew in my mind I was doing the right thing. I knew that the people who were going against me were not going against me for a good purpose. I knew that they were trying to justify their corruption and misgovernance.

MJ.com:
Now that you are a Peace Prize winner, and a government minister and an MP, does anyone still see you as a threat?

WM:
There will always be people who think that you have ambitions. But I think for most Kenyans right now, they are just so happy that after so many years of struggle that the world has recognized that work. My colleagues in parliament are very happy; the president has been extremely warm and congratulatory.

MJ.com: What about former president Daniel Arap Moi -- has he contacted you or issued any kind of statement since you won the award?

WM: No. But I did see him recently at a wedding, and we chatted a little bit, but it was just a matter of pleasantry. I am quite sure that he always knew what I was doing was right, and that it was he and his supporters who were doing the wrong thing.

MJ.com:
After so many years on the outside of government, have there been any surprises now that you’re on the inside?

WM: I’m a junior minister, so to a certain extent, I’m not in the inner inner circle. I think that for anybody who has worked in the civil society, government bureaucracy moves very very slowly. Though we have removed the [former] president and his ministers, with many of the civil servants who worked for him, sometimes I wonder they actually believe in the values that the new government came in with. Sometimes I feel frustration at the bureaucracy for not moving fast enough to deliver in the way that I would prefer. But that is probably because I have worked for many years in the civil society, which tends to move much faster than government.

MJ.com: During the early 1990s, Kenya experienced “ethnic clashes,” in which the government sponsored raids against tribes it identified as allies of the opposition. Do you think that era of divisive and violent ethnic politics has passed in Kenya?

WM: I certainly hope so. But we have never really gotten to the bottom of those tribal clashes. Those who were instigating them never have been questioned. A lot of the people who were displaced have not yet returned to their farms. But I do hope that sooner or later, those people will be able to go back to their land and the healing between those communities will be addressed. It is important for people to understand that those kinds of conflicts are actually utilized by politicians to achieve their own goals and that they should have no place in the Kenya we are trying to rebuild.

MJ.com: Do you think there’s any lessons other countries might learn from Kenya’s democratization?

WM: One very good thing was the fact that the civil society in Kenya worked hard to educate the public on the need to change the government peacefully, on the need to demonstrate to the leaders that if they did not govern properly they can be removed -- not by a gun, but through the vote. So I hope that’s a lesson that many African governments will learn. For us who are now in power, we need to be challenged to serve the people and ignore our own egos and personal interests so that we can really demonstrate to other African states that it is possible to share power without going to war. It is so much more difficult to rebuild once you have destroyed. We are seeing how difficult it is to resume normalcy in Somalia; we are seeing how difficult it is to bring the conflict to an end in the Sudan.

MJ.com:
Some observers have predicted that Africa is entering a period where natural resources will be even more scarce in the years ahead, and that this will lead to more conflict. Do you agree with that theory?

WM: I haven’t seen any information that brings that conclusion. Of course, resources on the planet are limited, and limited resources can come to an end. But there are also a lot of resources that are renewable. A lot of land, for example, can be reclaimed from the encroaching deserts. There is a lot that we can do, if only our governments would embrace the kinds of activities that the Green Belt Movement has been promoting -- mobilizing local people to do things such as protect the soil and rehabilitate degraded land. Really, you only need guidance and a lot of muscle energy -- and we have a lot of people, millions of little hands that can be engaged in the reclamation of our lands. So I think the challenge, especially after the recognition of an African by the Nobel Peace Prize, is to prudently manage the resources that are available and avoid conflict.

MJ.com: In the past, you’ve spoken about how Africans need to shed Western stereotypes about themselves, what Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o called “decolonizing the mind.” How do these stereotypes affect your work?

WM: It would be good for us Africans to accept ourselves as we are and recapture some of the positive aspects of our culture. For example, when many of us who are elites go back home, we are unable to go to the rural areas and really help our people overcome poverty and underdevelopment. Instead, we want to live the kind of life we have experienced in the West. It is partly to sustain those lifestyles that we become corrupt. We refuse to share resources; we govern irresponsibly. If we are confident, if we have some of our cultural values, then we would be more committed to assisting our people out of poverty and creating an environment that can make it possible for our friends to assist us. We have a lot of friends in industrial countries, but sometimes they are not able to help us because we create an environment that really makes it hard to help our people.

MJ.com:
But at the same time, doesn’t the West have problems with how it sees Africa? In the United States, for instance, there’s not much of an attention span for news from Africa.

WM: The outside world kind of likes to portray Africa like there is nothing positive. I don’t know whether it is deliberate, or whether people don’t want to see the positives. But there are a lot of wonderful initiatives that are being done by ordinary people that should be covered. But it is also true that we ourselves don’t project the positives. We’ve been struggling for 30 years, but quite often we didn’t even appear in the local newspapers, leave alone the international newspapers.

MJ: How did your childhood influence your career as an activist and an environmentalist?

WM: Growing up in a rural area and during a time when the country was very green greatly influenced me. But I think that perhaps I was impacted even more by my experience of coming to America at an early age. I have been helped a lot by the fact that I came to this country and spent five and half years here. I had a wonderful experience here in America, but I also accepted that I had a responsibility to go back and help my country. So those experiences really helped me go back to the country and say, “This is not the way things should be.” I am quite sure that if I had never left my country, I would not have had the same strong convictions that we need to have democratic space, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of association -- all of the rights I was trying to embrace.

MJ.com:
Has the controversy over the statements attributed to you about the origins of AIDS been cleared up to your satisfaction?

WM: For me, I didn’t have a problem because I never said what I was being told I had been saying. What is still my concern, of course, is the fact that this is a disease that has been devastating. What is really important is to educate people how to protect themselves and how to ensure that, despite their poverty, they can get tested and access drugs. So I just hope that those who can will make those drugs available.

MJ.com: Will you have a chance to relax in the near future?

WM: I definitely hope to relax when I get back home. I will disappear into the forest and be rejuvenated by the beauty of the mountains.

Dave Gilson is the research editor of Mother Jones.

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10 December, 2004

Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
By Wangari Maathai
City Hall, Oslo, Norway
 

Your Majesties
Your Royal Highnesses
Honourable Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I stand before you and the world humbled by this recognition and uplifted by the honour of being the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate.

As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the world. I am especially mindful of women and the girl child. I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership. I know the honour also gives a deep sense of pride to our men, both old and young. As a mother, I appreciate the inspiration this brings to the youth and urge them to use it to pursue their dreams.

Although this prize comes to me, it acknowledges the work of countless individuals and groups across the globe. They work quietly and often without recognition to protect the environment, promote democracy, defend human rights and ensure equality between women and men. By so doing, they plant seeds of peace. I know they, too, are proud today. To all who feel represented by this prize I say use it to advance your mission and meet the high expectations the world will place on us.

This honour is also for my family, friends, partners and supporters throughout the world. All of them helped shape the vision and sustain our work, which was often accomplished under hostile conditions. I am also grateful to the people of Kenya—who remained stubbornly hopeful that democracy could be realized and their environment managed sustainably. Because of this support, I am here today to accept this great honour. I am immensely privileged to join my fellow African Peace laureates, Presidents Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the late Chief Albert Luthuli, the late Anwar el-Sadat and the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.

I know that African people everywhere are encouraged by this news. My fellow Africans, as we embrace this recognition, let us use it to intensify our commitment to our people, to reduce conflicts and poverty and thereby improve their quality of life. Let us embrace democratic governance, protect human rights and protect our environment. I am confident that we shall rise to the occasion. I have always believed that solutions to most of our problems must come from us.

In this year’s prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has placed the critical issue of environment and its linkage to democracy and peace before the world. For their visionary action, I am profoundly grateful. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come. Our work over the past 30 years has always appreciated and engaged these linkages.

My inspiration partly comes from my childhood experiences and observations of Nature in rural Kenya. It has been influenced and nurtured by the formal education I was privileged to receive in Kenya, the United States and Germany. As I was growing up, I witnessed forests being cleared and replaced by commercial plantations, which destroyed local biodiversity and the capacity of the forests to conserve water.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

In 1977, when we started the Green Belt Movement, I was partly responding to needs identified by rural women, namely lack of firewood, clean drinking water, balanced diets, shelter and income.

Throughout Africa, women are the primary caretakers, holding significant responsibility for tilling the land and feeding their families. As a result, they are often the first to become aware of environmental damage as resources become scarce and incapable of sustaining their families.

The women we worked with recounted that unlike in the past, they were unable to meet their basic needs. This was due to the degradation of their immediate environment as well as the introduction of commercial farming, which replaced the growing of household food crops. But international trade controlled the price of the exports from these small-scale farmers and a reasonable and just income could not be guaranteed. I came to understand that when the environment is destroyed, plundered or mismanaged, we undermine our quality of life and that of future generations.

Tree planting became a natural choice to address some of the initial basic needs identified by women. Also, tree planting is simple, attainable and guarantees quick, successful results within a reasonable amount time. This sustains interest and commitment.

So, together, we have planted over 30 million trees that provide fuel, food, shelter, and income to support their children’s education and household needs. The activity also creates employment and improves soils and watersheds. Through their involvement, women gain some degree of power over their lives, especially their social and economic position and relevance in the family. This work continues.

Initially, the work was difficult because historically our people have been persuaded to believe that because they are poor, they lack not only capital, but also knowledge and skills to address their challenges. Instead they are conditioned to believe that solutions to their problems must come from ‘outside’. Further, women did not realize that meeting their needs depended on their environment being healthy and well managed. They were also unaware that a degraded environment leads to a scramble for scarce resources and may culminate in poverty and even conflict. They were also unaware of the injustices of international economic arrangements.

In order to assist communities to understand these linkages, we developed a citizen education program, during which people identify their problems, the causes and possible solutions. They then make connections between their own personal actions and the problems they witness in the environment and in society. They learn that our world is confronted with a litany of woes: corruption, violence against women and children, disruption and breakdown of families, and disintegration of cultures and communities. They also identify the abuse of drugs and chemical substances, especially among young people. There are also devastating diseases that are defying cures or occurring in epidemic proportions. Of particular concern are HIV/AIDS, malaria and diseases associated with malnutrition.

On the environment front, they are exposed to many human activities that are devastating to the environment and societies. These include widespread destruction of ecosystems, especially through deforestation, climatic instability, and contamination in the soils and waters that all contribute to excruciating poverty.

In the process, the participants discover that they must be part of the solutions. They realize their hidden potential and are empowered to overcome inertia and take action. They come to recognize that they are the primary custodians and beneficiaries of the environment that sustains them.

Entire communities also come to understand that while it is necessary to hold their governments accountable, it is equally important that in their own relationships with each other, they exemplify the leadership values they wish to see in their own leaders, namely justice, integrity and trust.

Although initially the Green Belt Movement’s tree planting activities did not address issues of democracy and peace, it soon became clear that responsible governance of the environment was impossible without democratic space. Therefore, the tree became a symbol for the democratic struggle in Kenya. Citizens were mobilised to challenge widespread abuses of power, corruption and environmental mismanagement. In Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, at Freedom Corner, and in many parts of the country, trees of peace were planted to demand the release of prisoners of conscience and a peaceful transition to democracy.

Through the Green Belt Movement, thousands of ordinary citizens were mobilized and empowered to take action and effect change. They learned to overcome fear and a sense of helplessness and moved to defend democratic rights.

In time, the tree also became a symbol for peace and conflict resolution, especially during ethnic conflicts in Kenya when the Green Belt Movement used peace trees to reconcile disputing communities. During the ongoing re-writing of the Kenyan constitution, similar trees of peace were planted in many parts of the country to promote a culture of peace. Using trees as a symbol of peace is in keeping with a widespread African tradition. For example, the elders of the Kikuyu carried a staff from the thigi tree that, when placed between two disputing sides, caused them to stop fighting and seek reconciliation. Many communities in Africa have these traditions.

Such practises are part of an extensive cultural heritage, which contributes both to the conservation of habitats and to cultures of peace. With the destruction of these cultures and the introduction of new values, local biodiversity is no longer valued or protected and as a result, it is quickly degraded and disappears. For this reason, The Green Belt Movement explores the concept of cultural biodiversity, especially with respect to indigenous seeds and medicinal plants.

As we progressively understood the causes of environmental degradation, we saw the need for good governance. Indeed, the state of any county’s environment is a reflection of the kind of governance in place, and without good governance there can be no peace. Many countries, which have poor governance systems, are also likely to have conflicts and poor laws protecting the environment.

In 2002, the courage, resilience, patience and commitment of members of the Green Belt Movement, other civil society organizations, and the Kenyan public culminated in the peaceful transition to a democratic government and laid the foundation for a more stable society.

Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

It is 30 years since we started this work. Activities that devastate the environment and societies continue unabated. Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has challenged the world to broaden the understanding of peace: there can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space. This shift is an idea whose time has come.

I call on leaders, especially from Africa, to expand democratic space and build fair and just societies that allow the creativity and energy of their citizens to flourish.

Those of us who have been privileged to receive education, skills, and experiences and even power must be role models for the next generation of leadership. In this regard, I would also like to appeal for the freedom of my fellow laureate Aun San Suu Kyi so that she can continue her work for peace and democracy for the people of Burma and the world at large.

Culture plays a central role in the political, economic and social life of communities. Indeed, culture may be the missing link in the development of Africa. Culture is dynamic and evolves over time, consciously discarding retrogressive traditions, like female genital mutilation (FGM), and embracing aspects that are good and useful.

Africans, especially, should re-discover positive aspects of their culture. In accepting them, they would give themselves a sense of belonging, identity and self-confidence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is also need to galvanize civil society and grassroots movements to catalyse change. I call upon governments to recognize the role of these social movements in building a critical mass of responsible citizens, who help maintain checks and balances in society. On their part, civil society should embrace not only their rights but also their responsibilities.

Further, industry and global institutions must appreciate that ensuring economic justice, equity and ecological integrity are of greater value than profits at any cost.

The extreme global inequities and prevailing consumption patterns continue at the expense of the environment and peaceful co-existence. The choice is ours.

I would like to call on young people to commit themselves to activities that contribute toward achieving their long-term dreams. They have the energy and creativity to shape a sustainable future. To the young people I say, you are a gift to your communities and indeed the world. You are our hope and our future.

The holistic approach to development, as exemplified by the Green Belt Movement, could be embraced and replicated in more parts of Africa and beyond. It is for this reason that I have established the Wangari Maathai Foundation to ensure the continuation and expansion of these activities. Although a lot has been achieved, much remains to be done.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

As I conclude I reflect on my childhood experience when I would visit a stream next to our home to fetch water for my mother. I would drink water straight from the stream. Playing among the arrowroot leaves I tried in vain to pick up the strands of frogs’ eggs, believing they were beads. But every time I put my little fingers under them they would break. Later, I saw thousands of tadpoles: black, energetic and wriggling through the clear water against the background of the brown earth. This is the world I inherited from my parents.

Today, over 50 years later, the stream has dried up, women walk long distances for water, which is not always clean, and children will never know what they have lost. The challenge is to restore the home of the tadpoles and give back to our children a world of beauty and wonder.

Thank you very much. 

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