Born in a rural Kenyan village in 1940, Wangari Maathai was already an iconoclast as a child, determined to get an education even though most African girls then were uneducated. In her remarkable and inspiring autobiography, she tells of her studies with Catholic missionaries, earning bachelors and master's degrees in the United States, and becoming the first woman both to earn a PhD and to head a university department in Kenya. She tells of her numerous run-ins with the brutal government of Daniel arap Moi and of the political and personal reasons that compelled her, in 1977, to establish the Green Belt Movement, which spread from Kenya across Africa, and which helps restore indigenous forests while assisting rural women by paying them to plant trees in their villages.
Maathai's extraordinary courage and determination helped transform Kenya's government into the democracy in which she now serves as Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources and as a Member of Parliament. Eventually her achievement was internationally recognized in the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in recognition of her 'contribution to sustainable development, human rights, and peace'.
In Unbowed, we are in the presence of a hugely charismatic yet humble woman whose remarkable story carries with it an inspiring message of hope. Hers is an extraordinary story, spanning different worlds and changing times, and revealing what the courage, determination, tenacity and humour of one good woman can achieve; how as small a thing as planting a seedling and watering it can made all the difference in the world.
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which, through networks of rural women, has planted over 30 million trees across Kenya since 1977. In 2002, she was elected to Kenya's Parliament in the first free elections in a generation and served as Deputy Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 in recognition of her campaigns for democracy and environmental reform during the dictatorship of Daniel arap Moi. She died in 2011.
"Wangari Maathai's memoir is direct, honest, and beautifully written – a gripping account of modern Africa's trials and triumphs, a universal story of courage, persistence, and success against great odds in a noble cause"
– Bill Clinton
"Renowned and admired throughout her native Kenya and across Africa for her pioneering struggle against deforestation and for women's rights and democracy, selfless and steadfast, Ms. Maathai has been a champion of the environment, of women, of Africa, and of anyone concerned about our future security"
– Kofi Annan
"Wangari Maathai is a prophet for our time and Unbowed is a call to arms for all of us who feel that the planet is overwhelmed by careless, corrupt or violent leadership. I have long suspected that the voice to lead us forward would come out of Africa, and it has – a voice of humor, sense, strength and compassion. Read this book and pass it on"
– Alexandra Fuller
"Wangari Maathai is the rare leader who knows how to create independence, not dependence. On the page as in person, her example makes each of us a little stronger, wiser and braver than we ever thought we could be"
– Gloria Steinem
"Compelling [...] A striking reminder that the peace award, more than any other Nobel honor, recognizes success achieved through tremendous adversity"
– The Seattle Times