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Tributes Extended for Wangari Maathai, Founder of Green Belt Movement

26 September 2011: Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, passed away on 25 September 2011. Maathai was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in environmental sustainability and empowerment of women, the first time a Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an environmentalist.

The Green Belt Movement, founded in 1977, encouraged women in rural Kenya to plant trees in order to improve their livelihoods and reverse the effects of deforestation. According to a statement from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Movement has planted over 30 million trees in Africa. Maathai also was the inspiration behind and a patron of UNEP's Billion Tree Campaign, which has led to the planting of 11 billion trees since 2006. In 2002, Professor Maathai was elected to Kenya's parliament and appointed Assistant Minister for environment and natural resources.

Maathai was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a UN Messenger of Peace and a member of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Advocacy Group. She received France's Légion d'Honneur in 2006, the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 2007 and Japan's Order of the Rising Sun in 2009. In addition to her doctorate degree, which she was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn, she received honorary doctorates from several universities. [UN News Release] [UNEP Statement] [UN-HABITAT Statement] [Statement of UN Secretary-General [Statement of Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)] [International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Release] [Statement of Executive Director of UNWomen] [UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) Statement]