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Celebrating Prof Wangari Maathai: The legacy of the warrior with a smile lives on

Achieving Woman - By Derrick Oluoch
Prof Wangari Maathai, Africa's first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize

On the 25th of September 2011, the world lost one of its biggest legends, a phenomenal woman known for standing for whatever she believed in, Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai.

Prof Maathai become the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. As the world celebrates her 9th anniversary, we look at some of her achievements and how she is remembered.

Prof Wangari Maathai planted more than 30 million trees across Africa

How Prof Wangari Maathai was hoboured for her work

Owing to her relentless push for change as an eco-warrior and human rights activist, Prof Wangari accumulated a number of prizes and honours including:

  • The Right Livelihood Award – 1984: An international award honouring and supporting those who offer practical and exemplary answers to the urgent challenges facing the world.
  • The Goldman Environmental Prize – 1991: A prize awarded to grassroots environmental activists. It is awarded annually by the Goldman Environmental
  • The Indira Ghandhi Prize – 2007: Award accorded by Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust to individuals in recognition of creative efforts towards promoting international peace
  • World Citizenship Award – 2007: An award of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts given to people who have contributed to a better world
  • The French Legion of Honour – 2006: Prof Wangari Maathai was awarded Legion d'Honeur, France's highest award in recognition of her work on the environment and peace
  • Appointed Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem
  • One of the highest honours, the Nobel Peace Prize
Prof Wangari Maathai receiving her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, 2004
Prof Wangari Maathai carrying water to plant trees at Karura Forest

How Prof Wangari Maathai is remembered

Prof Wangari Maathai lost the battle to ovarian cancer on 25th September 2011 at the age of 71. Today, the world remembers her by:

  • The Wangari Maathai Day. In 2012, the African Union designated March 3rd as the Wangari Maathai day, observed in conjunction with the Africa Environmental Day
  • Forest road in Nairobi was renamed Prof Wangari Maathai road in 2016
  • The Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies (WMI) at the University of Nairobi. WMI was established to honour, recognize, celebrate and advance the works and ideal of the late Prof Wangari Maathai.
  • The Wangari Gardens in Washington DC – a 2.7 acre community garden project for local residents
  • A statue erected in her honour at her alma mater Benedictine College’s Atchinson, Kansas campus
  • Prof Wangari Maathai is also remembered for planting more than 30 million trees across Africa

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