Have you heard of Wangari Mathai? Well I have not till today until I was watching this program on CNN called Revealed!
Well, it did manage to reveal a new person for me today, that of a Nobel Laureate for Peace, the first woman from Africa winning a Nobel.
Wangari Mathai is an environmental activist and a social activist, now also the co-chair of the Congo Forest Fund, which is on a mission to reduce the de-forestation of the Congo Basin (which incidentally seems to be twice the size of France!).
Wangari was born at a time, when the girl child in the family would not study, but would help with the family work. But, she stuck to it, that she would study and also stood first at school! Not only that she managed to get a scholarship to study in the US and even managed to complete a Ph.D.
If we look at why shes got the Nobel and as to why she is such a revered person in the International Environmental arena, the reason is because she lead from her grassroots movement called the “Green Belt Movement” and others and where she has helped towards planting of more than 30 Million trees! Not only this, she had to go through tremendous difficulties and was abused, ostracized and threatened, yet she did not take a step back and revert from her resolve of planting of more trees and greening the world.
On her travels to various countries post her winning the Nobel prize 2004, when she traveled to Japan, she came across the term and concept – MOTTAINAI and she adopted that term to preech tothe world the importance of the ‘3R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
She is now a world respected leader championing the cause of increasing the green cover on Earth and the impact of Climate Change and environmental degradation.
She has also incidentally won the India’s – Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in 2006.
India also has its share of environmental activists like Baba Amte, Medha Patkar (known for her role in Narmada Bachao Andolan) , the Chipko Movement (“Chipko” in hindi means ” to stick to” ..this was a non-violent agitation where the tribals hugged the trees, so they were not cut down) and many such wonderful examples to peoples determination to stop the needless and reckless cutting down of the green cover on the earth..
To end, a song of the people bringing out the spirit:
“Maatu hamru, paani hamru, hamra hi chhan yi baun bhi… Pitron na lagai baun, hamunahi ta bachon bhi”
(Soil ours, water ours, ours are these forests. Our forefathers raised them, it’s we who must protect them.)
— Old Chipko Song