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Saturday, February 16, 2008

BHM Series:Dr. Wangari Maathai, environmental and political activist, Nobel Laureate- Women's History Month Blogging Carnival

Here is another in our Black History Month Series written by Tami from What Tami Said.

Dr. Wangari Maathai, environmental and political activist, Nobel Laureate, woman who cannot be controlled

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.
--Dr. Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Laureate lecture
In 2004, Dr. Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel committee said of her:
"Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya. Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression—nationally and internationally. She has served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to better their situation."
As her Nobel lecture suggests, Dr. Maathai has spent a lifetime raising her voice and leading the way on the environment, human rights and women's rights. So active is she in pursuit of excellence and justice, that capturing her accomplishments and honors in a short biography is impossible. Here are some highlights:
  • Born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940, Dr. Maathai was educated in the United States and Africa. She is the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.
  • In 1977, Dr. Maathai, affectionately know as "Tree Woman" or "Tree Mother of Africa," founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots environmental non-governmental organization, which has now planted more than 30 million trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion.
  • In September 1998, she launched the Jubilee 2000 Africa Campaign, which seeks cancellation of the unpayable backlog debts of the poor countries in Africa by the year 2000.
  • During the regime of President Daniel Arap Moi, Dr. Maathai was imprisoned several times and violently attacked for demanding multi-party elections and an end to political corruption and tribal politics. In 1989 Maathai almost single-handedly saved Nairobi's Uhuru Park by stopping the construction by Moi's business associates of the 60-story Kenya Times Media Trust business complex.
  • Dr. Maathai has been an elected member of the Parliament of Kenya. She served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005. And she is the former chairperson of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (the National Council of Women of Kenya).

Here is a story that I quite enjoy from Dr. Maathai's Wikipedia biography:

In the 1980s her husband Mwangi Mathai, a politician whom she had married in 1969, divorced her, saying she was too strong-minded for a woman and that he was unable to control her. The judge in the divorce case agreed with the husband, and Wangari was put in jail for speaking out against the judge, who then decreed that she must drop her husband's surname. In defiance, Wangari chose to add an extra "a" instead.

Today, "raise [your] voices and take more space for leadership"—be an uncontrollable woman, like Dr. Wangari Maathai.

Women's History Month Blogging Carnival

What Tami Said is hosting a Women's History Blogging Carnival for the month of March.

Dates: March 1 through March 31

Theme: Come Together--Healing Tensions among Women Working for Equality

We are accepting essays, poetry, photographic essays, art, You Tube presentations, short fiction and other creative expressions designed to strengthen the bonds among women and heal rifts caused by historic and current conflicts, as well as by differences in race, age and sexual orientation.

Beginning March 1, submissions will be posted alternately at What Tami Said and Women’s Space, and eventually on an as-yet-to-be-developed blog dedicated to the Come Together blog carnival. We are planning to close the month with a live open discussion on Blog Talk Radio.

Submission Guidelines: Submit work no later than Feb. 28 to whattamisaid@gmail.com or cheryllindseyseelhoff@gmail.com. We cannot guarantee on which blog your work will be posted.

Along with your submission, please include a short bio (2-3 sentences) and a link to your blog if you have one. Find out more at What Tami Said.