Wangari Muta Mary Jo Maathai’s (April 1, 1940 – September 25, 2011) public image highlights her nationality, her education both in and outside Kenya, her establishment of the Green Belt Movement (GBM) for which she received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, and her political activism. Advocates for female empowerment take solace in success stories like Maathai’s rise from a village girl to become a global icon of leadership. Yet, her mobility was more circumstantial than it was deliberate, and is inseparable from the uneasy compromise between the traditional gender roles of her youth with the critical consciousness nurtured in advanced studies overseas. Despite the remarkable achievements of Maathai and a handful of other females, Kenyan girls still confront cultural, financial and economic hurdles in social mobility.


Kenya, Wangari Maathai, education, cultural identity, gender roles, Green Belt Movement



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