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Wangari Maathai

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BC: By: Elizabeth Ewing

FC: The Life and Leadership of Wangari Maathai

1: Throughout history there are leaders that are voted in and lead major countries and there are those that rise up against all odds and inspire the world. The life of Wangari Maathai is one of those. One of the highest points was winning the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner. The following pages show her life and her influence.

2: Wangari Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940. She was one of the youngest members of her family and was encouraged to go to school by her older brother. Against all odds and trends, she graduated from high school, was accepted to college, and had the chance to attend college as well as graduate school in the United States. Once she finished her graduate degree in Biology at the University of Nairobi she became a professor at the University and was the first female professor in Kenya.

3: Above: Nyeri, Kenya. Left: Forest in Kenya.

4: Above shows the effects of deforestation in Kenya.

5: While Maathai was traveling around Kenya with her job at the University and discovered that women were traveling farther to get basic necessities like wood for fires. | When she looked further into the the problem, she discovered the rapid deforestation in Kenya. Between 1950 and 2000 Kenya lost of 90% of its forest to deforestation. This is due to many policies encouraging more mass farms and cutting down forest to get it. Maathai knew that something needed to be done but didn't know what to do. So she did the one thing she thought would help...she planted some trees.

6: It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees. | The Green Belt Movement | The Green Belt Movement was started to re-plant and reforest Kenya. Since it's formation they've planted over 45 million trees in Kenya and became internationally recognized for its effectiveness.

9: Once the Green Belt Movement showed that women and grass movement groups could make a difference, Maathai became involved with other groups. One of those projects was the Freedom Corner. A group of women protested in Nariobi about the disappearance of their husbands and sons. After being beaten and jailed for the cause, the women gained international attention and their loved ones back.

10: In 1998 Maathai went to continue planting trees in the National Forest of Kenya. When she arrived there she discovered that the forest was fenced and the government was trying to sell the land to make money. Maathai called some reporters in town and took them to the forest with her. They snuck through another way to water and plant more trees. When they walked through the front gate. Once the reporters exposed the story the forest the government unfenced the land and didn't sell it.

11: "I have always been interested in finding solutions."

12: Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

13: "We are called to assist the earth and heal her wounds and in the process heal our own." | In 2004, Maathai was given the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize being the first woman to do so. She was also the first winner for environmentalism. The committee honored her as the first winner to make the connection between environment destruction and democratic conflict.

14: 1. Problem Solving | Lessons from Maathai | 2. Making connections between issues for simple answers

15: 3. Don't be afraid to do "small" things | 4. Be true to yourself and beliefs regardless of others | Life and Leadership

16: Maathai was able to look at a problem and find a solution to help fix it. She didn't wait for someone to tell her what to do, she just started fixing the problem. And by doing small or simple things she was able to fix a big problem.

17: 1. Problem Solving | Although I haven't won any prizes, I like to emulate Maathai's problem solving skills. My first issue to tackle is reading. I might not be able to teach my students to read on grade level when they leave my room but they will be exposed to new words and historical readings.

18: 2. Making connections between problems and simple solutions. Maathai was able to solve numerous problems in Kenya with simply planting trees and giving women jobs. I have yet to find a simple solution for all the problems facing my students but keep trying solutions, hoping to stumble on the solution one day

21: Small Things | 3. Don't be afraid to do "small" things With all the big problems to fix in Kenya Maathai wasn't overwhelmed on what to do. She started doing the small thing of planting trees and it turned out to be something big in the end. I try to apply this and it's more difficult than it sounds. Fixing the education system is a big problem but I think there are a few small fixes that could make a big difference. We're trying to do small things but if we already knew the one small answer it would already be fixed.

22: 4. Be true to yourself regardless of others. Even though Maathai was jailed numerous times and always fighting against a repressive government, she never forgot who she was or what she set out to do..saving the environment of Kenya. As teachers we get in battles with paperwork, rising importance of test scores, and endless meetings. Somehow we have to find a way to still be ourself, have our personal teaching style, and balancing other responsibilities. Somehow we still have to be true to ourselves and that might be one of the hardest things to do.

24: So in conclusion, even though Maathai seems like an unusual leader to research she has numerous leadership qualities that are applicable to the teaching career or myself and others.

26: Table of Contents | Most information and pictures were taken from Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai.

27: Black, Richard. (2011) "Wangari Maathai: Death of a Visionary." BBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15060167 Maathai, Wangari. (1995). "Bottle-Necks of Development in Africa." UN World Women's Conference. Retrieved from: http://gos.sbc.edu/m/maathai.html Maathai, Wangari. (2012). Retrieved from: www.braineyquotes.com/quotes/authors/w/wangari_maathai.html "Nobel Peace Prize: 2004." (2004) Nobel Prize Committee. Retrieved from: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2004/maathai-bio.html

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  • By: Elizabeth E.
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  • Title: Wangari Maathai
  • A summary of the life and leadership of Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner. It also details her most important leadership qualities.
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  • Published: over 5 years ago