Our favorite time of the year is finally here!

It is time to celebrate and dedicate the entire month of February to black history. Follow Sheen Magazine along the way as we’ll share black history facts throughout the entire month. Every day, we will share little-known facts, celebrate those who played made their mark in history, and the historic moments and events.

Wangari Maathai

Early life

Wangari Maathai was born on April 1st, 1940 in Nyeri, Kenya. The environmental activist grew up in a fairly small village. Her father worked as a tenant farmer. During this time, Kenya was still a British colony. Maathai was sent to school which was uncommon at the time. She began school at a local primary school when she was eight-years-old. Wangari went on to continue her education at Loreto Girls’ High School where she excelled in her studies and earned herself a scholarship to go to college in the United States.

Wangari attended school at Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas where she earned her degree in biology in 1964. Two years after that, Wangari earned her master’s degree in biological sciences a the University of Pittsburgh. Upon returning to Kenya, she studied veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi.

Making history!

In 1971, she made history when she became the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate degree! She joined the university’s faculty and made a mark there as well! She became the first woman to chair a university department in the region in 1976.

Green Belt Movement

It was important for Wangari to put an end to Kenya’s forests and lands caused by the country’s environment. In 1977, Wangari Maathai launched the Green Belt Movement. It was created to reforest Kenya while helping the women in the country. The movement was very successful! It was responsible for planting over 30 million trees in Kenya and it also provided nearly 30,000 women in new skills and opportunities. In 1989, Wangari organized one of her most famous actions. She staged a protest in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park to prevent the construction of a skyscraper. The campaign was noticed by millions all over the entire world! Later on, the project was dropped. The exact spot where Wangari Maathai demonstrated became known as “Freedom Corner.” The year after the staged protest, Maathai was badly beaten after a protest in “Freedom Corner.” She was there calling for the release of political prisoners.

Continued Activism

Maathai remained vocal for the Kenyan government. She finally earned a seat in the country’s parliament in the same year. Shortly after, she was appointed assistant minister of environment, natural resources, and wildlife.

Making history once again!

In 2004, Wangari Maathai received an outstanding honor, she was given the Novel Peace Prize!

Later in life

In the years after Maathai shared her life with the world in a memoir titled, Unbowed. She battled ovarian cancer in her final years and passed away when she was 71-years-old. Wangari Maathai was survived by her three children, Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta.

All information obtained from Biography

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