In her acceptance speech upon being the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for the social empowerment and environmental justice work of her Green Belt Movement, Wangari Maathai recalled playing in streams when she was a child, mistaking frogs eggs for beads and breaking them to release thousands of tadpoles. “This is the world I inherited from my parents.”
That stream had dried up by the time Wangari’s daughter Wanjira was ready to inherit her own piece of the African landscape and the helm of the Movement – a sure sign of the urgent need for Wanjira to continue the work of her mother.
And she has, to say the least. Through her leadership in Africa as the chair of her mother’s namesake foundation, vice president and regional director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, and through seats on the boards and advisory councils of numerous other organizations, Wanjira continually works to further women’s empowerment, youth leadership, renewable energy and landscape restoration across the continent. The Green Belt movement has now planted East Africa with more than 51 million trees, giving, among other things, dead streams new life.