Consistency, hard work, and passion are the foundation for the betterment of Africa. The country has many potential individuals who can move it to another level. Many people in Africa sit back when faced with problems. They tend to blame everything on their governments.
Unlike most, Wangari Maathai was a woman full of optimism. She was born in a Kenyan village called Nyeri on April 1st, 1940. Maathai was raised up from a very humble background but this didn’t stop her from working hard to achieve her goals. Maathai went to Mount St. Scholastica college where she pursued a degree in biological sciences. She later pursued a master of science degree from the University of Pittsburgh and doctoral degrees in Germany and Nairobi. When she completed her studies, Wangari didn’t forget to go back to her native home to share some of what she had learned with her fellow Kenyans.
One of the causes that Wangari is most remembered for is her efforts to avert the effects of deforestation and widespread environmental destruction through an initiative widely known as the green belt movement. Through the movement, she rallied thousands of Kenyan women and inspired them to plant trees. To date, the movement has led to the planting of over 51 million throughout Kenya. If you went to Kenya before her efforts, you would be welcomed by drying rivers and swaths of cleared forests. Her efforts have since contributed to partially reversing this trajectory.
Maathai mobilized rural women and taught them the value of planting trees. She then employed them, providing them with steady income and helping boost their standard of living. In addition to planting trees, she led a strong resistance against further deforestation. For example, when the government wanted to cut down the only forest in Kenya, Wangari staged vigorous opposition. The government responded with tear gas and other harsh means. However, her resistance paid off since the forest was eventually preserved.
In 2004, Wangari won a noble peace prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace, being the first African woman to win such a prize. She later served as a peace messenger for the United Nations. Additionally, Wangari represented the Tetu constituency in the ninth parliament of Kenya from 2002 to 2007. She used this opportunity to campaign extensively for environmental conservation. In 2005, she was appointed as a goodwill ambassador to the Congo basin forest ecosystem by the eleven heads of states. Maathai wrote four inspiring books about her life and work.
There are many lessons to learn from Wangari as she was an inspiring and determined woman. As young people, I believe we can learn that it is always important to have a purpose in life, to always endeavor to put our ideas into action and to constantly challenge ourselves. This is the only way through which we can achieve our true potential. Wangari died in 2011 after a long struggle with ovarian cancer. Her name will however forever be remembered across Africa and the rest of the world.