“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.” ― Wangari Maathai, Unbowed: A Memoir
Wow, where do I begin? Unbowed is undoubtedly one of the best readings in my entire life. It’s beautifully written, direct and honest. I might be biased because I didn’t know who she was before but her book made so much impact on me, she changed the way I think completely, precisely to be constructive, about life, being a woman, rights, justice, democracy and environment. I also love watching many of the video about her on youtube, especially when she gave speeches. Inspirational sounded underrated but she’s the woman who earned her own destiny. And for that I admire her so much and can really relate to some of her stories.
Wangari Maathai was born and raised in a small village in the central highlands of Kenya. In this book, she began telling her young life with her family in the time of British Colonization in Kenya. She wrote such striking factual about the history of Kenya in this period of time. She was a responsible young girl helping her family in the farm and, at a young age, left home to study in a Catholic school. She was full of determination and eventually won a scholarship to study in the US, earned her diploma, master and later a doctorate degree in Germany. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. I especially fond for her in this part of the book.
When she came back to serve Kenya, although with the difficulty of gender inequality, Dr. Maathai was appointed as a professor in Nairobi University. The first female professor ever in Kenya. I also want to mention quickly that this book was recorded in three important time in Kenya–the British Colonization, the first President of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta and the second, Daniel arap Moi who ordered detention, put in jails and threaten to life of Dr. Maathai, for years. But she kept fighting.
“Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.”
In 1977, she started planting trees in Kenya to fight deforestation and the Green Belt Movement was founded and gave jobs to thousands of Kenyan women in rural areas. Although for many years, she had to fight with the corrupted government who abuse of power and their environmental mismanagement, who tried to build highrises in public lands or made businesses in national park area, she led the people to fight. Together they planted trees in the forest while the soldiers threatened to shoot them. The movements started of a tree planting campaign but she does a lot more than just the planting of trees. It gave people a reason to stand up for their rights, environmental rights, women’s rights and human’s rights. In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The first African woman to be awarded the prize.
Dr. Maathai is an iron woman who stood for something greater than herself. She’s selfless and dedicated so much for Kenya and inspired the world. She is a true leader and a symbol of hope. She used to say, “imagine if every single person in the world planted a tree, it will be billions of trees. It will change the world.”