Wangari Maathai, in full Wangari Muta Maathai, (born April 1, 1940, Nyeri, Kenya—died September 25, 2011, Nairobi), Kenyan politician and environmental activist who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize for Peace, becoming the first black African woman to win a Nobel Prize. Her work was often considered both unwelcome and subversive in her own country, where her outspokenness constituted stepping far outside traditional gender roles.
Maathai was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica College (now Benedictine College; B.S. in biology, 1964) and at the University of Pittsburgh (M.S., 1966). In 1971 she received a Ph.D. at the University of Nairobi, effectively becoming the first woman in either East or Central Africa to earn a doctorate. She began teaching in the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi after graduation, and in 1977 she became chair of the department.
While working with the National Council of Women of Kenya, Maathai developed the idea that village women could improve the environment by planting trees to provide a fuel source and to slow the processes of deforestation and desertification. The Green Belt Movement, an organization she founded in 1977, had by the early 21st century planted some 30 million trees. Leaders of the Green Belt Movement established the Pan African Green Belt Network in 1986 in order to educate world leaders about conservation and environmental improvement. As a result of the movement’s activism, similar initiatives were begun in other African countries, including Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.
In addition to her conservation work, Maathai was also an advocate for human rights, AIDS prevention, and women’s issues, and she frequently represented these concerns at meetings of the United Nations General Assembly. She was elected to Kenya’sNational Assembly in 2002 with 98 percent of the vote, and in 2003 she was appointed assistant minister of environment, natural resources, and wildlife. When she won the Nobel Prize in 2004, the committee commended her “holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights, and women’s rights in particular.” Her first book, The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience (1988; rev. ed. 2003), detailed the history of the organization. She published an autobiography, Unbowed, in 2007. Another volume, The Challenge for Africa (2009), criticized Africa’s leadership as ineffectual and urged Africans to try to solve their problems without Western assistance. Maathai was a frequent contributor to international publications such as the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian.
The essay prize competition is named in honor of Wangari Maathai ( b.1940-d. 2011), the Kenyan scholar and activist who, in 2004, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace prize. Wangari Maathai was Kenyan environmentalist who began a movement to reforest her country by paying poor women a few shillings to plant trees. She was the founder of the Green Belt Movement and authored four books: The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth.
Born in Nyeri, a rural area of Kenya, Wangari Muta Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree (1971). She was internationally acknowledged for her struggle for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation. According to the United Nations, at the time of her death, her Green Belt Movement had planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and helped nearly 900,000 women while inspiring similar efforts in other African countries.
The essay contest is therefore intended to encourage, in the spirit of Dr. Maathai, excellence in graduate and undergraduate scholarship on the experience of the Africa and it's Diaspora. A prize of $300 will be awarded for the best original essay on any topic in Afroamerican, Caribbean, and/or African studies in each of two categories: (a) Undergraduate student; and (b) Graduate student. The judges for the competition will be drawn from among the faculty and faculty associates in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies. The competition is open to all University of Michigan undergraduate and graduate students working on Afroamerican, Caribbean, or African topics. The paper must be written no earlier than January 1, 2014. Since DAAS is a multi-disciplinary program, the papers may be from a wide range of fields including, among others, anthropology, architecture, art, art history, business, drama, education, history, economics, education, health, journalism, law, literature, medicine, music, natural resources, nursing, policy studies, political science, psychology, social work, sociology, urban planning, women's studies, natural resources and environment. Papers written for courses are eligible.
Please send the following two items in the same email, but as separate email attachments. The attachments should be either Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word documents.
1. A completed essay coversheet.
Your cover sheet should include the following information:
- student status (undergraduate or graduate)
- essay title
- course for which you wrote the essay (including semester and year)
- email address
2. Your essay.
-The essay should be no more than 6,000 words in length (approximately 30 pages).
-It should be typed, one-and-a-half spaced or double-spaced.
-The font should be no smaller than 11 point.
-There must be a title page. The title page must have the title of the essay and the word “graduate” or “undergraduate” directly below it; remove all other identifying information. Do not put your name, email, or course information on the title page.
Essays must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 5:00 P.M., Friday, March 16, 2018. Important: Depending on your status, write the following in your email subject line: Essay Competition (undergrad) or Essay Competition (grad).
Prizes and certificates will be presented at the DAAS Graduation Ceremony. For further information, email email@example.com.