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AWDF pays tribute to Wangari Maathai

On October 8, Professor Wangari Maathai was laid to rest in Kenya. There will be an official memorial service for her on 14th October, giving her country, her many friends and admirers and the rest of the world an opportunity for an official farewell. The board and staff of AWDF would like to take this […]

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On October 8, Professor Wangari Maathai was laid to rest in Kenya. There will be an official memorial service for her on 14th October, giving her country, her many friends and admirers and the rest of the world an opportunity for an official farewell.

The board and staff of AWDF would like to take this occasion to join the myriad of voices across the world that have paid tribute to Wangari in the two weeks since she passed away. The loss of Wangari Maathai means that African women have lost an iconic role model; that Africa has lost a caring and visionary leader; that the world has lost a global citizen of honour and integrity; and that the earth has lost an effective, courageous and unrelenting advocate.

Wangari Maathai’s passion for the environment inspired the planting of billions of trees across the globe. Yet her passion for social justice went beyond her beloved trees and beyond her well known and documented environmental activism. Her vision of social justice encompassed both human and ecological rights. She believed passionately in protecting our environment but her Greenbelt Movement was as much about asserting and advancing women’s rights as it was about reforesting the earth and rebalancing the relationship between humanity and mother earth.

Her fierce intelligence was complemented by a generous and easy warmth that was the foundation of her ability to relate so strongly to the diverse range of people she interacted with: families living in absolute poverty in urban slums or princes surrounded by extraordinary wealth; indigenous communities protecting their knowledge and traditions in the hearts of untouched environments or young people struggling to make sense of their lives in post conflict wastelands; African women changing the faces and fates of their villages or African women changing the destiny of their nations and our continent.

Wangari believed strongly that peace was essential for the true regeneration of the African continent and the preservation of the earth more generally. As the first African woman Nobel Peace Prize winner, she would have been delighted at the news that Africa now has its second and third female Nobel laureates in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee – and particularly the citation regarding their efforts to promote peace building.  The pride and inspiration to African women generated by the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners echoes that first provided by Wangari Maathai in 2004.

Wangari, the board and staff of AWDF hail your life and your legacy. Our heartfelt condolences go to your family, to the Kenyan nation and to African women everywhere. We pledge ourselves to join with the millions of people in Africa and across the world who will work to ensure your legacy is honoured. You will not be forgotten.

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