UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

In Tribute to Wangari Muta Maathai

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Date: 27 September 2011

Statement of UN Women, Executive Director Michelle Bachelet in tribute to Wangari Muta Maathai 1940-2011. Ms. Maathai passed away on Sunday 25 September, 2011.

(Photo credit: Mainichi Corporation)

It is with deep sorrow and sadness that all of us at UN Women grieve the loss of Wangari Muta Maathai, an environmentalist, politician, professor and human rights activist.

We join people in Africa and around the world in mourning her death, and celebrating her life, as a remarkable leader who was the first African women to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Professor Maathai took a courageous stand, enduring harassment and brutality, to protect the environment and advance the rights of women, combating desertification, water shortages and rural hunger.

An extraordinary leader and founder of the Green Belt movement in Kenya, she galvanised an environmental movement that planted more than 30 million trees across Africa, empowered thousands of women, and passionately encouraged a new way of thinking and acting that combined democracy and sustainable development.

A fearless leader, she went where no one else dared to go and challenged authorities that few dared to challenge. Refusing to be cowed, she remained adamant about the full participation of women in civic and public life and leaves behind a legacy that will remain with us forever. Her innovative ideas around job creation through environmental restoration are today found in the global development agenda of green jobs and a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

UN Women draws inspiration from Dr. Maathai's work, especially as we prepare for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

As we grieve her loss, our prayers and thoughts are with her family and the many women and men whose lives she touched. May her soul rest in peace as her vision guides us forward.