Have you ever imagined that something as innocuous as planting trees and caring for your environment would make you lots of enemies? Not just enemies but well-connected, powerful, deep-pocket enemies?

Have you ever imagined that you’d be punished because of your gender and assertiveness?

Have you ever imagined that your State would deploy the full force of its military muscle to silence, intimidate, humiliate and crush your spirit?

Have you ever imagined that a daughter of the hoi polloi, with all manner of conundrums thrown in her way, would not only overcome but also receive one of the highest honours known to mankind?

No? Well, neither did Wangari Muta Maathai –Kenya’s sole Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the first woman in East and Central Africa to receive a doctoral degree.

She tells her life’s story like only she can. She’s seen it all. Colonialism and its ravaging effects, racism, sexism, neo-colonialism, patriarchy, divorce, political harassment, intimidation, gross violation of her rights and death of loved ones. She’s also seen life, happiness, hope, local and international awards. More importantly, she’s experienced fulfilment from doing and fighting for what she loves.  This a story of a woman who not only talked the talk but also walked the walk!

Karura Forest and Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya are symbols of her resolve, tenacity and love for the environment. She must be proud that the government of Kenya finally banned the use of plastic bags!

Prof. Maathai has been brutally beaten, recklessly insulted, unfairly incarcerated, and unjustifiably humiliated by her own government. She’s been disowned by her friends and associates. She’s also been divorced. What did she do, you ask? Well she committed the high crime of being a trailblazing, record-breaking, glass-shattering, unapologetic woman!

Yet every time, she’s found the will to get up more times than she was knocked down. She’s found a way to turn her rage into unstoppable impetus! Of everything she’s been told she couldn’t be or do because she was a woman, she choose to be unbowed!

In the world we now live in, with the harrowing effects of climate change as clear as crystal, her words are even more important now:

“You don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.”

She’s bold, honest, vulnerable and above all, unbowed!



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