(WASHINGTON, DC) – Mayor Vincent C. Gray today expressed his condolences to the District’s Kenyan community over the death of environmental activist, Dr. Wangari Maathai.
Dr. Maathai, 71, died in Nairobi on September 25 after a bout with cancer. In 2004, she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She became a national hero and gained worldwide acclaim and respect for her 1977 establishment of the Green Belt Movement, which organized women in rural Kenya to plant trees. The trees, in turn, helped to replenish deforested parts of Kenya, restore the main source of fuel for cooking and generate income for these women. Her model is being emulated across Africa and around the world.
“Along with the District’s Kenyan community and the entire world, I grieve the passing of Wangari Maathai,” said Mayor Gray. “She was simultaneously an environmental, poverty and democracy activist, and a shining example to all who work for peace and justice across the globe.”
Dr. Mathaai was widely regarded as a pioneer in holistic development work, with joint emphases on poverty alleviation, sustainable development, environmental restoration and women’s rights. She also was the first woman in East and Central Africa to receive a doctorate degree (in anatomy), and served as a member of Kenya’s Parliament.
“The African community has lost one of its most prolific leaders,” said Ngozi Nmezi, Director of the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (OAA). “Dr. Wangari Mathaai will always be remembered for her ability to see the intrinsic relationship between local and global issues. Here we have a leader who acted on the complaints of deforestation by rural woman in Kenya, empowered them into repairing their own environment and spurred a movement that has assisted women in planting more than 40 million trees. Though she has passed on, her legacy will continue to inspire many, many generations to follow.”