Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai speaks at USF - Lance Robson03/24/06
Last night 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai spoke at the University of South Florida. Nearly a thousand people came to hear the first African woman who is also the first environmental activist to be honored by the Nobel committee. WMNFs LR filed this report
In the late 1970s Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization comprised largely of poor rural women dedicated to environmental conservation and community development. The Green Belt movement became widely known for planting 20 million trees in Kenya, but is also responsible for trailblazing mobilizations against shortsighted development plans, corrupt politicians, as well as advocating for debt forgiveness for many third world countries.
Maathai was instrumental in organizing the women of Kenya in a way that has challenged the restrictive laws of their country. For her advocacy she has been beaten and imprisoned, but she has remained steadfast and committed to human rights and justice.
Wangari Maathaiâ€™s greatest strength may be in her ability to translate vision into action. She views environmental protection and sustainability as issues facing systematic opposition, and she continues to problem-solve for these causes that she believes are part and parcel of the peace and justice movement. This vision, coupled with her overflowing humility, even extends to her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She believes the real importance in receiving worldwide recognition is not simply a personal honor, but as a challenge to all of humanity to wake up and face mounting challenges that effect the human family.
Wangari Maathai ended the night with a South American tale meant to give hope to people struggling against the odds. The tale is about a hummingbird attempting to put out a fire that threatens its habitatâ€¦