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What You Need to Know About Wangari Maathai, the First Woman In Africa to be Awarded A Nobel Peace Prize

Wangari Maathai, Kenyan, the first woman in Africa awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work on sustainable development, democracy & peace, in 2004.

Wangarĩ Muta Maathai born 1 April 1940 was a Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate. She was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica (Benedictine College) and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

In 1977, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. In 1984, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award.

Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005. She was an Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council. She was affiliated with professional bodies and received several awards. In 2011, Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer.

In a 2004 interview with Time, in response to questions concerning that report, Maathai replied, “I have no idea who created AIDS and whether it is a biological agent or not. But I do know things like that don’t come from the moon. I have always thought that it is important to tell people the truth, but I guess there is some truth that must not be too exposed,” and when asked what she meant, she continued, “I’m referring to AIDS. I am sure people know where it came from. And I’m quite sure it did not come from the monkeys.” In response she issued the following statement:

“I have warned people against false beliefs and misinformation such as attributing this disease to a curse from God or believing that sleeping with virgin cures the infection. These prevalent beliefs in my region have led to an upsurge in rape and violence against children. It is within this context, also complicated by the cultural and religious perspective, that I often speak. I have therefore been shocked by the ongoing debate generated by what I am purported to have said. It is therefore critical for me to state that I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people. Such views are wicked and destructive.”

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