A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Wangari Maathai

Did you hear the inspiring Wangari Maathai on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs the other day? The first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, she stood up against Daniel Moi's oppressive regime in Kenya which finally came to an end in 2002. The next year she founded the Mazingira Green Party of Kenya. She also founded the Green Belt Movement which has planted over 30 million trees across Kenya to prevent soil erosion. The Nobel committee cited her huge contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. Known as "Tree Woman", she's a persistent campaigner against deforestation, a tireless activist on environmental and African women's issues. Born into the Kenyan Kikuyu culture in 1940, she spoke movingly on how the majestic sight of Mount Kenya had been her inspiration. The Kikuyu worshipped under trees and revered this mountain. Here are the last two paragraphs from her Nobel lecture of December 2004: As I conclude I reflect on my childhood experience when I would visit a stream next to our home to fetch water for my mother. I would drink water straight from the stream. Playing among the arrowroot leaves I tried in vain to pick up the strands of frogs' eggs, believing they were beads. But every time I put my little fingers under them they would break. Later, I saw thousands of tadpoles: black, energetic and wriggling through the clear water against the background of the brown earth. This is the world I inherited from my parents... Today, over 50 years later, the stream has dried up, women walk long distances for water, which is not always clean, and children will never know what they have lost. The challenge is to restore the home of the tadpoles and give back to our children a world of beauty and wonder.

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