Wangari Maathai Biography

Who Was Wangari Maathai?

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan political and environmental activist, who served as the assistant minister of environment, natural resources, and wildlife. She established the Green Belt Movement whose mission was to revive forests in Kenya while empowering women. In 2004, she won the Nobel Prize for Peace and became Black Africa’s first female recipient of the prize. Her work was considered unwelcome and subversive in her own country.

Early Life And Education

Wangari Maathai born on April 1st, 1940, in Nyeri, Kenya. Maathai was raised in a little village by her father, a tenant farmer. It was unusual for girls to have an education at this time, therefore Maathai’s family made the decision to send her to school. When she was eight years old, she enrolled at a nearby primary school. She was permitted to continue her education at the Loreto Girls’ High School. In addition, She was an exceptional student.

She got a scholarship to study in America in 1960 where she eventually earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount St. Scholastica College Atchison Kansas and later completed a master’s degree in biological sciences from University of Pittsburgh.

Returning to Kenya, Maathai enrolled at the University of Nairobi to study veterinary anatomy. In 1971, she became the 1st woman in East Africa to get a PhD. In 1976, she became a member of the university faculty and once more created the first female chair of a department at a university in the area.

Green Belt Movement

Kenyan political activist Maathai is best known for founding Green Belt Movement established in 1977 whose aim was restoration of Kenyan forestlands through reforestation and aiding women’s livelihoods through it; this resulted into planting over thirty million trees while empowering about three thousand women approximately.

Internationally Acclaimed Activist

Apart from focusing on environmental issues alone, Maathai voiced out against the Kenyan government and especially dictator Daniel arap Moi. She was arrested and beaten on numerous occasions for her actions. In 2002, She turned herself into a staunch critic of the regime until Moi’s party fell. Activist Maathai became a member of Kenya’s National Assembly and was appointed as assistant minister of environment, natural resources & wildlife.


Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her comprehensive strategy of sustainable development, which included women’s rights, democracy, and human rights. She asserted for fair development, and peace during her career.

Personal Life

Wangari wed Mwangi Mathai in 1969, resulting in three children namely Waweru, Muta, and Wanjira.

Later Years And Death

In 2006, memoir Unbowed, Maathai shared this incredible life story with the whole world. After suffering from cancer, She died on September 25, 2011, at the age of 71.

Interesting Facts

  • Title: Wangari Maathai Biography
  • Name: Wangari Maathai
  • Birth Date: April 1, 1940
  • Birth City: Nyeri
  • Birth Country: Kenya
  • Gender: Female
  • Industries: Education And Academia
  • Schools: Mount St. Scholastica College
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Nairobi
  • Nationalities: Kenyan (Kenya)
  • Awards: Nobel Peace Prize, Right Livelihood Award, MORE
  • Spouse: Mwangi Mathai (m. 1969–1979)
  • Siblings: Moses Ndiritu Muta
  • Education: University of Nairobi (1969–1971), MORE
  • Death Year: 2011
  • Death Date: September 25, 2011
  • Death City: Nairobi
  • Death Country: Kenya
  • Author: Editors

Quotes By Wangari Maathai

  • Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.
  • Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize my next steps. I often just kept walking along, through whichever doors open.
  • Because I am focused on the solution, I don’t see danger.
    Giving up would have given pleasure to the enemy. So I never gave up.
  • We need to promote development that does not destroy our environment.