On 25th this month, we will be marking exactly four years since the demise of Kenya’s only and Africa’s first woman to win the Nobel Peace prize. Wangari Maathai was obviously a woman who was way ahead of her time. She believed in a cause and pursued it with such a forceful and unrelenting passion. This reminds me of this great woman’s most famous quote:
“It is the little things citizens do that will make a difference. My little thing is planting trees.”
And plant trees she did; sometimes rubbing the dictatorial Moi regime the wrong way and getting into serious trouble, with the police and hired goons, but not without major successes in salvaging our environment. This included saving Karura forest and Uhuru Park (Both beautiful green spaces in Nairobi city) from the rapacious KANU regime. Were it not for this courageous woman doing her “little thing,” the best way she knew how, today we could be staring at high-rise concrete forests, of course built by corrupt land grabbers, in Karura and Uhuru Park!
Soon the world recognized her for her unequaled courage and honored her with the most coveted award in the world, making her the first woman Nobel Laureate in Africa. But what did we do in recognition of this great honor? President Kibaki made her a mere assistant Minister of Environment. (Not even a full minister!). Indeed prophets are never respected at home. Needless to say that there is a whole park-complete with her very own statue -dedicated to her name, oceans away; in Lima Peru!
Aren’t we supposed to be very ashamed of the way we treat our heroes and legends as a country? Isn’t Kenya supposed to take advantage of being home of this world renowned matriarch to market the country to the whole world?
However we now all have another chance to remedy this wrong through The Wangari Maathai Foundation. In an initiative spearheaded by Wangari Maathai’s own daughter, Wanjira Maathai, the foundation plans to build an iconic monument christened The Wangari Muta Maathai (WMM) House in Hardy, Karen. All Kenyans of goodwill should get involved in building this landmark.
This breath-taking architectural masterpiece will be one of a kind in the South of the Sahara. To quote what is written on its website (http://wangarimaathai.org/wangari-house/),
“it will be a celebration of Wangari Maathai’s life and capture in three dimensions the vision, passion, and holistic consciousness of the first African woman and first environmentalist to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; A venue to reflect on the life and legacy of this remarkable Kenyan; a hub for change-agents seeking inspiration and replenishment for their commitment to create change; and a center for students of all ages to learn about the connections between democracy, peace, and the environment.”
I am sure by now; you might have come across the Wangari Maathai Foundation social media campaign dubbed #Mylittlething, which aims at not only bringing the legend’s voice back into our lives but also remind us that indeed, “it is the little things citizens like you and me do that make a huge difference. What are you doing to make a difference?
#Mylittlething will be holding our leaders accountable through social media and other fora, fighting for justice for all and being the best dad that I can be.