Wangari Maathai was awarded for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She studied natural sciences in the US, Germany and the University of Nairobi, Kenya and was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.
She gained international recognition for her campaign against the government’s plans to cut down Kenyan forests in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. In the years 1976-1987 Wangari Maathai was active in the National Council of Women of Kenya, the birthplace of the idea of community-based tree planting. She was an initiator of the “Green Belt Movement”, a grassroots organisation famous for planting more than 30 million trees in Africa.
An advocate of women rights and civil freedoms, Ms Maathai served as a deputy in the Kenyan parliament.