When high school students and many other young people are asked who their role models are, many mention Wangari Maathai as their heroine. Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmentalist and a political analyst. In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”.
On the 31st of May, Veronica Thamaini, the Director of the Young Changemakers Program, Akili Dada alumnae and mentors held a session at Precious Blood Riruta.
Students watched the film, Taking Root, which tells the story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai. Her simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy—a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration. The students enjoyed the film tremendously and gave insightful feedback. After the film, the students conducted group discussions, focusing on questions prepared to encourage a deeper conversation about the importance of local action and intersectionality in terms of movement-building.
The students found a new inspiration from Wangari Maathai’s story because they saw her experiences as an activist rather than a global figure. The discussion brought Wangari and her work closer to students, shifting their perspectives not only about Wangari Maathai, but about their own power.