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Nobel winner 'saviour of Kenyan forests' passes away

Last updated on: September 26, 2011 17:52 IST

Nobel winner 'saviour of Kenyan forests' passes away

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Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigns to save Kenyan forests, died in a hospital in Nairobi late on Sunday after a long struggle with ovarian cancer.

Maathai, 71, founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees to prevent environmental and social conditions deteriorating and hurting poor people, especially women, living in rural Kenya.

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Image: Wangari Maathai
Photographs: Reuters
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The first African woman to win Nobel Peace Prize

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Maathai's movement expanded in the 1980s and 1990s to embrace wider campaigns for social, economic and political change, setting her on a collision course with the government of the then-president, Daniel arap Moi.

Maathai, who won the Peace Prize in 2004, had to endure being whipped, tear-gassed and threatened with death for her devotion to Africa's forests and her desire to end the corruption that often spells their destruction.


Image: Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai shows her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.
Photographs: Reuters
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She raised her voice against exploitation of forests

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Maathai, who was also awarded the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize in 2006, said during her 2004 Nobel acceptance speech that the inspiration for her life's work came from her childhood experiences in rural Kenya, where she witnessed forests being cleared and replaced by commercial plantations, which destroyed biodiversity and the capacity of forests to conserve water.

 


Image: File photograph of Maathai planting a tree at Nairobi
Photographs: Reuters
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