Wangari Maathai's Legacy Feted across Africa Fri, Mar 4, 2016

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner speaking on the occasion of Africa Environment Day-Wangari Maathai Day

Nairobi, 3 March 2016 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner joined other high-level speakers at the commemoration of Africa Environment Day-Wangari Maathai Day held at the Lavington Primary school in Nairobi on Thursday.

Celebrated as part of the African Year of Human Rights with a Particular Focus on Women's Rights, the theme of this year's Africa Environment Day-Wangari Maathai Day is Strengthening women's access to, and control over natural resources.

It is a special tribute to the continent's first female Nobel Peace Prize winner. Wangari Maathai dedicated her life to improving women's livelihoods by empowering them to lead the restoration of degraded ecosystems across the world and particularly in Africa.

Addressing students at the Lavington Primary school, Mr. Steiner emphasized the important role that Wangari Maathai had played in the environmental movement in Kenya. He also recalled fondly his personal friendship with Professor Maathai.

He said "Today, the entire planet celebrates World Wildlife Day. But in Africa, March 3rd is also Wangari Maathai Day. Professor Maathai began by herself, planting one tree at a time. She rose to fame and started a movement, not something that I think she aspired to, but by virtue of her courage, leadership and inspiration. The Green Belt Movement has since planted over 51 million trees in Kenya.

"Today, there are many Wangari Maathai's in communities across Africa, working to make their environment and their communities a better place.

"The theme of World Wildlife Day this year is that the future of wildlife is 'in our hands'. Celebrating Wangari Maathai on the same day is apt, as she reminds us of our individual power to make a positive difference for our environment and for our world."

Patricia Nzano from the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies, said that women, especially form the rural areas, are directly involved in the protection of natural resources because they use them to take care of their families.

Chair of the Green Belt Movement Wanjira Maathai also addressed the youth, urging them to aim to create a better environment and keep the Wangari Maathai legacy going. The late Nobel laureate is a role model to many young people across the continent for her commitment in environment conservation.

Environmental students from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark also attended the event saying that the celebration was indicative of Africa's commitment to preserve the environment.

Lucia Vogel, from the University of Copenhagen said, "as a female student from the University in Denmark, Wangari Maathai day is very important, not only for the environment but because it was a woman that actually empowered other women to do something about the environment. So as a female student it is nice to commemorate it and meet other women that have to do with this day."

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