Celebrating the Life and Work of Professor Wangari Maathai
Last Tuesday, the Green Belt Movement (GBM), together with friends and family of Professor Wangari Maathai marked her 1st anniversary memorial at an event held at the GBM headquarters in Kilimani, Nairobi.
Guests included Kenya’s Prime Minister (PM), the Right Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, M.P; Vice President, Hon. Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, MP; Nairobi Provincial Commissioner, Mr. Njoroge Ndirangu; and the Posta Corporation’s CEO, Dr. Enoch Kinara. Embassy representatives, Posta Corporation staff and members of GBM’s tree nursery groups were also present. Both Hon. Raila Odinga and Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka addressed the guests.
Hon. Odinga in his speech said that Professor Maathai’s life story is a reminder of the great power within us. We each have the ability to mobilise people to work together for positive change. He acknowledged that change doesn’t come easily, but urged the guests to push for development that will benefit us all.
Commenting on current resource-based conflicts in some parts of the country, the PM stated that the solution was for brave Kenyans to stand up for the restoration of the environment, while at the same time ensuring that the people’s needs are met.
Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka described Professor Maathai as an icon in Kenya, Africa and across the whole world. He stated that she had inspired him to get rid of some eucalyptus trees which he had planted in his garden and replace them with Indigenous trees. He urged the guests to honour Professor Maathai by making a commitment to protect Kenya’s forests, and therefore preserve Kenya’s water towers.
During the memorial, the Kenya Posta Corporation unveiled a new stamp (right) in honour of Professor Maathai. The stamp was first conceptualised in 2004 when she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. One million copies of the new stamp had been printed and distributed to over 400 Posta outlets throughout the country. Kenyans can now purchase the new stamp for KES 30.
In addition to the main memorial ceremony at GBM headquarters, memorial tree planting events were held across the country. The Kenya defence forces and residents of Kigogoini in Nyeri County were among those who planted trees in honour of Professor Maathai. They also committed to becoming “hummingbirds” in their own communities – doing whatever they can to make a difference, no matter how small. Similar memorial tree planting events, organised by GBM field staff, will take place over the next few days in schools, parks and other public places across the country.
The Peace Tent Initiative
In preparation for the memorial, GBM launched a seven-day peace campaign dubbed “the Peace Tent Initiative”. This initiative gave Kenyans the opportunity to pledge their commitment to actively promote peace in Kenya. A total of 8,128 signatures were collected during the week long initiative. At the memorial, Hon. Odinga and Hon. Kalonzo also pledged to actively promote peace within Kenya. The peace tents will return later in the year ahead of the Kenya general elections.
A video of the day's events can be viewed here.