Wangari Maathai: a global inspiration
26 September 2011
Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel peace prize, died on Sunday night. CAFOD's Joseph Kabiru describes her as "my heroine, a global inspiration, and a true Kenyan warrior".
Joseph met Wangari Maathai many times, and has written a moving tribute to her for the Guardian online. Joseph says:
"She was a fearless opponent of corruption, a thorn in the side of the male-dominated Kenyan authorities – "that woman", they used to call her – and was never afraid to speak the truth to the most powerful world leaders when they dragged their feet on climate change.
"Participants at the forthcoming Durban climate change conference will miss her contribution. Yet, with her passing, they have an even greater incentive to make progress and build a lasting legacy to her memory.
"Working at CAFOD, I already see her true legacy: ordinary men and women in rural communities around the world, from Cambodia to Brazil, who take her as their inspiration when standing up against the logging companies, exposing collusion and corruption by the authorities, and protecting their forest heritage for future generations.
"Personally, my lasting memory of Wangari Maathai will be her hearty laughter even as she articulated complex environmental issues, and her fierce determination to save the forest where I grew up. She was determined to save our lives in a way my family did not initially understand, but which she eventually persuaded us to demand.
"She was my heroine, a global inspiration, and a true Kenyan warrior."