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Cyndy Bittinger: Wangari Maathai

05/18/07 12:32PM
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Our common ground will be achieved when gender does not prevent education. In early American history, a woman's x on the page meant that her life would be controlled by her father or husband. When women became literate, doors could open for them. This still resonates today. Wangari Maathai was the first female in her Kenyan family to be educated. When 600 Kenyan students were offered a college education in the United States in 1960, she was one of them who came to see a "whole new world."

On returning to Africa, she wanted to use her education to find a solution to deforestation, devegetation and the unsustainable agriculture she found. Maathai came up with a plan and fostered community groups to plant trees, eventually 30 million of them. The United Nations' Voluntary Fund for Women supported her work, mainly done by local women. Civic and environmental education seminars became part of her Green Belt Movement.

Maathai was recognized with the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

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