Hugely charismatic, humble, and possessed of preternatural luminosity of spirit, Wangari Maathai, the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.
Born in a rural village in 1940, Wangari Maathai was already an iconoclast as a child, determined to get an education even though most girls were uneducated. We see her studying with Catholic missionaries, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, and becoming the first woman both to earn a PhD in East and Central Africa and to head a university department in Kenya. We witness her numerous run-ins with the brutal Moi government. She makes clear the political and personal reasons that compelled her, in 1977, to establish the Green Belt Movement, which spread from Kenya across Africa and which helps restore indigenous forests while assisting rural women by paying them to plant trees in their villages. We see how Maathai’s extraordinary courage and determination helped transform Kenya’s government into the democracy in which she now serves as assistant minister for the environment and as a member of Parliament. And we are with her as she accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in recognition of her “contribution to sustainable development, human rights, and peace.”
In Unbowed, Wangari Maathai offers an inspiriting message of hope and prosperity through self-sufficiency.
About the Author
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which, through networks of rural women, has planted over thirty million trees across Kenya since 1977. In 2002, she was elected to Kenya’s Parliament in the first free elections in a generation, and in 2003, she was appointed assistant minister for the environment. She lives and works in Nairobi.
Praise for Unbowed…
“Concrete and mesmerizing, Unbowed is the story of resistance, a refusal to be bowed down by oppression and humiliation in the pursuit of the excellent and the heroic in society. Wangari Maathai’s story is more than that of one woman’s struggles against the negative political and social conditions of her upbringing: it is also the story of Kenya, Africa, and the World. The environment she fights for is the totality of the ecological and social conditions of our being. Her life is a triumph of good over evil.”
–Ngugi wa Thiong’o, author of Wizard of the Crow
“This is an extraordinary account of an extraordinary woman’s life. The courage, compassion and natural wisdom that shine out from these pages are hugely inspiring for campaigners the world over. And for those who are still struggling to find what ‘sustainable development’ really means in practice, you need look no further than Wangari Maathai’s own life, and the astonishing success of the Green Belt Movement.”
–Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder and Programme Director of Forum for the Future
“Wangari Maathai's memoir is direct, honest, and beautifully written–a gripping account of modern Africa's trials and triumphs, a universal story of courage, persistence, and success against great odds in a noble cause.”
"Wangari Maathai is a prophet for our time and Unbowed is a call to arms for all of us who feel that the planet is overwhelmed by careless, corrupt or violent leadership. I have long suspected that the voice to lead us forward would come out of Africa, and it has - a voice of humor, sense, strength and compassion. Read this book and pass it on."
“Wangari Maathai will be the first woman from Africa to be honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize. She will also be the first African from the vast area between South Africa and Egypt to be awarded the prize. She represents an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace.”
–The Norwegian Nobel Committee, 8 October 2004
“My time with Wangari Maathai made me feel as if I had been given new eyes and an awakened soul . . . . To exude a sense of empowered peace . . . with historic brilliance and heroism while raising three children as a single mother in a country hostile to strong women is almost unimaginable . . . She should be the most celebrated woman in the world.”
“What is impressive and important about what Wangari and the Green Belt Movement have done is that they work on the environment in a way that ties it to economic empowerment– lifting people out of poverty. Such creative solutions need our support.”
“Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement demonstrate the intimate connection between sustainable management of Africa’s rich natural resources, democracy, good governance and peace. Such are the solutions that will bring new light to Africa. I hope the world will support her vision of hope.”