Nobel Peace Prize, 2004
The so-called Tree Lady for her relentless work to stop deforestation in her country by planting millions of trees was born on April 1, 1940 in a kikuyu family en Nyeri (Kenya).
Thanks to a U.S. grant she could study biology in Kansas. Back in Kenya she worked at the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi. She studied for her doctorate at the German universities of Giessen and Munich and, in 1972 she became a doctor in Nairobi. Her work in rural areas showed the massive deforestation that was destroying Kenya and made her an activist in favor of the environment and peace.
In 1976 she joined the National Council of Women of Kenya and a year later, she founded the Green-Belt Movement, which encouraged women to create nurseries for autochthonous seeds and used them to plant trees in deforested territories. Her voice was heard at international forums where she defended forests, African women and human rights.
In 2003 she was elected Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. A year later, she became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
She created the Nobel’s Women Initiative to support and make visible the struggle for peace, justice and equality together with other Nobel Prize winners: Rigoberta Menchú, Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan and Shirin Ebadi.
She died in Nairobi on the 25 September 2011. A year later, at the initiative of the Women for Africa Foundation, the Botanical Garden of the Complutense University of Madrid dedicated a walk where 71 trees were planted in honor of the years she had when she died.