Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our March Author: Wangari Maathai

Before you go any further, visit the Amnesty International USA site to take action on behalf of Wangari Maathai, author of our March selection, Unbowed.

Kenyan human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Wangari Maathai received three death threats on her cellular telephone on February 19, 2008, as did two people working for her.

These threats read, ‘‘Because of your opposing the government at all times, Prof Wangari Maathai, we have decided to look for your head very soon, you are number three after Were, take care of your life.” The threats were signed ‘‘Mungiki.” The “number three” refers to the two Members of Parliament who were killed at the end of January.

The website for the Greenbelt Movement does provide some reassurance that Wangari Maathai's security detail was reinstated on March 5. Of course the site is worth exploring to learn more about the movement (pictures!).

There are many Wangari Maathai interviews available on line. This interview is the one that brought Unbowed to my attention, and here's another recent one from Democracy Now. Asked about Iraq,

And in Africa, in particular, I know we have many wars. We have a war in Darfur. We have wars in many other countries like the Congo, in West Africa, in Somalia right now. We are still having these wars. And these wars, when you look at all of them, you realize that they are all about resources. It’s the question of who is going to control the resources in this country, who is going to be included, who is going to be excluded, who is going to be in charge of these resources.

I think that if we would get the message that the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave us in the year 2004, we would sit back and rethink again: Isn’t there another way of managing these resources, of sharing these resources, of being more inclusive, of allowing everybody to play a part to benefit, so that we do not have to fight and kill each other, so that we can have the supreme control of these resources?

Speaking of Faith has an interview and slideshow of Kenyan women (accompanied by Wangari Maathai singing!)

In addition to the Greenbelt Movement's activities, learn more about the United Nations Environmental Programme's "Plant for the Planet" project to plant one billion trees in 2008 here. NPR has a report on how this program is working in Indonesia.

For a taste of Wangari Maathai's inspiration: Mount Kenya is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a photo gallery and video can be found here. PBS Nature has a feature on the fig tree, The Queen of Trees. When I first saw the title, I thought this was a reference to Wangari Maathai herself! Watch a trailer here.

The latest Amnesty reports and actions on Kenya can be found here. Also of interest, another Rights Readers author, Michela Wrong, offers some insight into recent events in Kenya in the New Statesman.

Finally, while there are many Wangari Maathai videos available on YouTube, try this for a taste of her storytelling skills,

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