NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 26 – 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner and environmentalist Wangari Maathai has died while undergoing treatment at the Nairobi Hospital.

Prof Maathai succumbed to ovarian cancer at 11pm on Sunday night, just over a year since she was diagnosed with cancer, in July 2010.

The 71-year-old political activist is well known for her constant battles with government to protect Kenya’s forests.

In 1977, Prof Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, conservation, and women’s rights.

In 1984, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Prof 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.

In a statement, the Green Belt Movement Executive Director Prof Karanja Njoroge described her departure as untimely and a great loss to all who knew her, as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy and better place.

Talk of her health surfaced early this year but remained a closely guarded secret.

Prof Maathai started the Green Belt Movement to work with women to improve their livelihoods by increasing their access to resources like firewood for cooking and clean water.

She became a great advocate for better natural resource management practices that are sustainable, equitable and just. Her life’s work was recognized many times all over the world and she received awards, honorary degrees from many universities around the world, culminating with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Prof Maathai leaves behind three children.

Originally appeared on Capital News.


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