Discuss as:

Kenyan Wangari Maathai, first African woman to win Nobel Peace Prize, dies of cancer at 71

From the full story on msnbc.com:

Kenya's most recognizable woman, Maathai won the Nobel in 2004 for combining environmentalism and social activism. She was the founder of the Green Belt Movement, where over 30 years she mobilized poor women to plant 30 million trees.

In recognizing Maathai, the Nobel committee said that she had stood up to a former oppressive regime — a reference to former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi — and that her "unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression.

Antony Gitonga / Reuters

Nobel prize laureate Wangari Maathai, who is also Kenya's Assistant Minister for Environment, touches a tree stump cut by illegal loggers during a ceremony to plant trees in Sabatia forest, Koibatek, at Eldama Ravine in this November 23, 2006 file photo. Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, has died in hospital after a long struggle with cancer, her environmental organisation the Green Belt Movement said on September 26, 2011.

Environmental activist Wangari Maathai said after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize:

It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.

Here's the full text of her speech, and you can see more of her quotations here.


Picture dated January 1999 shows 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and human rights campaigner, carried to the courts after she was beaten by a mob after she confronted private developers that had illegally taken land in the Karura forest.

Here is a link to the Green Belt Movement she started, and a story from The Standard in Kenya about her education, which included college studies in the United States in the 1960s.  

Yves Herman / Reuters

U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey (L) and U.S. actor Tom Cruise (R) congratulate Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, during the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo in this December 11, 2004 file photo.