Wangari Muta Maathai 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 in 2003 was appointed Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, and Wildlife. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2004, she is the author of Unbowed: A Memoir, and speaks to organizations around the world. Her newest book, The Challenge for Africa addresses the intricacies of African issues, such as the lack of technological developments, the absence of fair international trade, population pressures and enduring hunger, and the dearth of genuine political and economic leadership. Maathai stresses the need for Africans to invent and implement their own solutions, rather than relying on foreign aid and Western visions of change, and calls for a revolution in leadership on both a political and individual level.
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Kenya in 1940. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Professor Maathai obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas, and a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She pursued doctoral studies in Germany and Kenya, obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi where she became the first woman chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy.