In 2004, Maathai earned worldwide attention when she was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work linking environmentalism with democracy and human rights.
Maathai decided that planting trees with women’s groups would improve the quality of their lives while helping the environment. She founded the Green Belt Movement which has planted more than 20 million trees on farms, schools, and church compounds. The movement has spread to other countries in Africa.
Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She studied at several universities in the United State and Europe before returning to Kenya to improve the lives of her fellow citizens.
In 2002, Maathai was elected to the Kenyan Parliament and was later appointed to be Assistant Minister of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife.
Maathai was a great leader. Despite the challenges she faced as a woman and an African, she changed the world by teaching women to value themselves, to take control over their lives, and to connect human rights with environmentalism. We owe her a great deal, but the best way to honor her work is to continue it.