Nairobi, Sept. 26: The founder of Green Belt Movement Wangari Maathai, who won Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, died on Monday in Nairobi after a long illness.
Kenyan environmental and political activist known for her works on environmental and women's rights died in hospital where she was undergoing treatment for cancer.
The Green Belt Movement said in a statement on its website, "It is with great sadness that the Green Belt Movement announces the passing of its founder and chair, Prof. Wangari Muta Maathai, after a long illness bravely borne."
Executive Director of the Green Belt Movement Karanja Njoroge said, "Prof. Maathai passed away on the 26th of September 2011 in Nairobi. Her family and loved ones were with her at the time."
Maathai was born in the village of Ihithe, Nyeri District, in the central highlands of British-controlled Kenya on 1 April 1940. Her family was of the Kikuyu ethnic group.
After her schooling in home country she received a scholarship to study at Mount St. Scholastica College (now Benedictine College), in Atchison, Kansas. At Mount St. Scholastica, she majored in biology. After receiving her bachelor of science degree in 1964, she was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh to study for a master's degree in biology.
Maathai returned to Nairobi in 1969, to continue her studies at the University College of Nairobi as an assistant lecturer. She married Mwangi Mathai in the same year. She became the first Eastern African woman to receive a Ph.D. in 1971.
She started participating in the Environment Liaison Centre in 1974 and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Maathai also joined the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). She started focusing on plantation which took shape of the Green Belt Movement. She encouraged Kenyan women to plant tree nurseries throughout the country.
Maathai won the Right Livelihood Award in 1984 and eventually became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”
Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005.