Today came the sad news that the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, lost her battle against cancer in a hospital in Nairobi last night. She was 71.
Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which planted millions of trees in order to ensure supplies of firewood and protect water sources and crops. She was also known as a social activist and a staunch opponent of Daniel arap Moi’s regime. As the first woman in east and central Africa to obtain a PhD and as the first female professor at the University of Nairobi she was also an academic pioneer.
In 2004 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”. She received the Peace Prize in Oslo on 10 December 2004.