Nairobi and the leader behind it


If you are a person who admire nature, specially an area covered by green plants you will definitely love to see Nairobi (specially if you come from addis, where construction has made the city dusty) . Anyway, I had the chance to travel to Kenya for a short period of time for a meeting. During my stay, I tried to engage with my Kenyan colleagues how they have transformed into such a green heaven at the time when our world recently is worried about climate change and global warming, that was an easy question for them: because of the Green Belt Movement.

Green Belt Movement was founded by Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), an amazing woman who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She was born in Nyeri, a rural area of Kenya (Africa), in 1940.  She gained several educational achievements: a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas (1964), a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh (1966), and pursued doctoral studies in Germany and the University of Nairobi, before obtaining a Ph.D. (1971) from the University of Nairobi, where she also taught veterinary anatomy, the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.


From the stories I heard from my colleagues, the time professor Maathai started her movement was met by a challenge. The government policy at the time had made it impossible for a woman to be a leader. Her activism on sustainable development, democracy and peace in general, community based tree planting for the eradication of poverty, environmental conservation and human right. Her achievements in human right in particular has grabbed the interest of Norwegian Nobel Committee and made her to the winner of our world’s greater award of Peace Prize. She is also an author who has published four books called The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth.

Professor Maathai was the first women to be the chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively. Although she is gone, her legacy, vision and commitment has continued through The Wangari Maathai Foundation (WMF), established in 2015 in partnership between her family and the Green Belt Movement.

When one travels to another country, it is sort of an obligation to think of their own country and compare. I am very pride of my country’s uniqueness and originality. We have a leader who always fight for the environment and want to keep the name Addis Ababa (“ A new flower” ) , Gash Abera Molla or Seleshi Demese (who by the way doesn’t even have Wikipedia page).

Yes, i know we all know him and have been inspired by him. He has thought us how to clean our city and yet we have not yet understood what he stood for, as clearing and making our country green has been a seasonal deed. We are not following his motto to make Addis cleaner and green as our brothers and sisters in Kenya are doing.

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We need to learn to appreciate the good people we have and the best thing they deserve would be to take the responsibility to follow their footstep.