I was checking my emails when I heard that Wangari Maathai made the transition to the ancestors on 25 September 2011. I came across this remarkable woman one day while I was doing some research on African women while preparing for my Great Black Women of History course. I had purchased the Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai DVD over 12 months before and was waiting for the perfect time to schedule the screening into our programme. Like most areas of World History, this story is male dominated and fails to acknowledge the contribution of Black Women to World History. I asked a few people if they knew who Wangari Maathai was and was greeted with blank faces. I was not shocked at this as I am still on my journey to find out more.
We screened the film on Monday 14 November 2011 at the PCS Headquarters. Taking Root tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose 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.
- Maathai was the first Eastern African woman to receive a PhD in 1971
- Maathai was the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for promoting conservation, women’s rights and transparent government.
- She was the founder of the environmental group Green Belt Movement, and had served as a member of parliament in 2002. The organisation also campaigned on education, nutrition and other issues important to women.
The number in attendance was not our average for a Monday session but it was more about quality than quantity. We watched the film and everyone who attended was inspired by this courageous woman. In the discussion afterwards, we discussed the fact that so far 45 million trees have been planted in Kenya alone under her Green Belt Movement and 7 billion worldwide in the UN programme she patronised. We laughed in amazement when I shared that during her divorce, her husband said that she was “too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control.” I was agreed by all that we should take her legacy forward and plant seeds of change in the minds of the community to bring about change.
To purchase the Taking Root DVD, please go to http://takingrootfilm.com/
I have created some activities such as wordsearches and puzzles in tribute to Wangari and they can be found here http://www.blackhistorystudies.com/resources/wangari-maathai/
I have summarised some of the feedback received from the feedback forms collected at the event:
“Excellent documentary. Please keep it up with your enlightment.”
“A truly inspirational woman! Wangari reminded us all of using our own gifts. A well authored documentary for all to learn from. BHS continues to give us the right and appropriate information and tools to empower ourselves and others. Keep up the good work!”
“The film was very inspiring and motivational. The message being very clear that if we look after our environment, we will become healthier human beings.”
“This is an excellent piece of work to support environmental awareness for our developing countries that have been strategically destroyed by Europeans. I was particularly moved by the influence the older woman had in displaying their nakedness to demand change. The link with nature and spirit was powerful. A film that should be shown in schools.”
“This is my third event that I have attended and I am always truly uplifted, educated and inspired to pursue the work needed to bring our community of African people to their full growth and power.”
“The film was fantastic. A real hidden treasure. Never heard of Wangari Maathai before, but I now want to learn more about her and the Green Belt Movement.”
“Very inspirational, what an eye opener. A strong and amazing woman in Kenya!
“Very professional and always finding hidden gems about our heroes and sheroes!”
“Very educational. I learnt things I was previously unaware if. Also showed how the determination of one person can make a difference.”
“This film not only highlighted the environmental issues around deforestation and reforestation in Africa. It shows what a small group can do or just one person can do when faced with opposition that would make most people give up. An inspiration that should be seen by all.”
“Very good selection of presentations and screenings. Keep up the good work.”
“Powerful film. I am very emotional having watched this moving account of one woman. It will prompt me to find out more. Thank you for introducing me to this woman.”