On This Day: Kenyan environmentalist and human rights campaigner Wangari Maathai wins Nobel Peace Prize

On October 8, 2004, Kenyan environmental justice organizer Wangari Maathai receives a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace,” becoming the first African woman to win the award. 

Maathai was born to peasant farmers in 1940, and grew up in a rural community in Kenya. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States before returning in 1966 to a newly independent Kenya, where she then became the first woman in east and central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization focused on reducing poverty and preserving the natural environment.

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