Monday, August 29, 2011

Wangari Maathai - A Dramatic Story - Part 2



Dr. Maathai was raised in the rural highlands of Kenya, educated in the United States during the 1960s civil rights era, and the first female to receive a PhD in East Africa, Maathai discovered the heart of her life's work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up.


Women in the Green Belt Movement planting seedlings
They told her that their daily lives had become intolerable: they were walking longer distances for firewood, clean water had become scarce, the soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. Maathai thought to herself, "Well, why not plant trees?" Trees provide shade, prevent soil erosion, supply firewood and building materials, and produce nutritious fruit to combat malnutrition. With this realization Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization encouraging rural women to plant trees.


A seemingly innocuous idea, Maathai soon discovered that tree planting had a ripple effect of empowering change. In the mid 1980s, Kenya was under the repressive regime of Daniel arap Moi under whose dictatorship group gatherings were outlawed. In tending their nurseries women had a legitimate reason to gather outside their homes and discuss the roots of their problems. These grassroots women soon found themselves working successively against deforestation, poverty, ignorance, embedded economic interests, and political oppression, until they became a national political force.


Contd...

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