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On 25th September 2011, Professor Wangari Maathai, Kenya’s 2004 Noble Prize winner and one of African’s leading activists protecting human rights and the natural environment died at the age of 71. Striving to express her greatness we asked the former Ambassador of Poland to Kenya, Mr. Wojciech Jasiński, to share with us his reflections on this outstanding Kenyan:

What could actually prove the real worth of this well known scientist and activist was the homage paid to her on 26th September during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly held in New York. Her demise is an irretrievable loss for Kenya and the entire world. She was well known to the community that was engaged in development and human rights - not only for her inspiring eloquence but also because of the warmth that she endowed with all people. She became a founder of the Green Belt Movement, which encouraged Kenyan women in rural areas to plant trees with the aim to make their everyday lives easier and assure maintenance through better access to clean water, firewood and other resources. Today, a total amount of 45 million trees have been planted in Africa and over 900 thousand women have established plant nurseries to prevent their land from deforestation and desertification. Prof.Wangari Maathai was a visionary and keen activist of UNEP in Nairobi as well as other UN agendas. She was the author of many articles and publications, among them "The Challenge for Africa; A new vision", W. Heinemann, London 2009.

She was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940 and studied in her motherland and USA. She became the first woman in Central and East Africa to get a doctorate (1971) and the first African to be awarded the Noble Prize. She was a member of parliament and the undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources.

Several times and during various situations she met with Polish people living in Kenya. She was interested in their affairs and discussing the possibility of translating her books into Polish. Advanced plans had been made for her meeting with Polish Noble Prize winner, former President of the Republic of Poland, H.E. Mr. Lech Wałęsa, unfortunately these plans were never fulfilled.

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