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Unbowed: My Autobiography Hardcover – 1 Feb 2007
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'Wangari Maathai's Memoir is direct. Honest, and beautifully written - a gripping account of modern Africa's trials and triumphs, a universal story of courage, persistence, and success against great odds in a noble cause.' -- Bill Clinton
`As this inspiring memoir shows Maathai's work is about a lot more than getting women to plant trees ... The more difficulties Maathai faced, the more determined she became ... Her book wonderfully demonstrates that you don't need to be in a position of power to start doing something about your environment.' -- The Sunday Times
`Maathai's book is frank and moving ... like a Nelson Mandela or a Mahatma Gandhi, Maathai stands way above most mortals.'
-- The Guardian
About the Author
In 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of her campaigns for democracy and environmental reform during the dictatorship of Daniel arap Moi. Now a leading Kenyan politician, she lives in Nairobi.
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Raised in rural Kenya, Wangari Maathai never lost the deep connection with the land and its the natural beauty. Over the years, she noticed the changes and the increasing fragility of the environment. Trees for her became a symbol and a tool for protecting the vulnerable ecosystem and assisting rural population to stem the growing poverty.
Thanks to the intervention of her older brother and the support of her mother, she was able to attend school beyond the primary level, which was all girls at the time could reach for. As luck had it and, being a bright student, her convent school was one of those selected to send graduates to the US under what became known as the Kennedy Airlift: a program to send young Africans to American colleges for further education. These young people were being primed to become future leaders of their societies in the soon to be independent African states. Maathai returned to Kenya with a Master's degree in biology, a subject that for her combined her scientific interests with her deep love for her natural environment. She was encouraged in her research and added a PhD in veterinary medicine to her record. Life should have been easy after that with a good husband, a blossoming academic career and three wonderful kids. But women in Kenya were not supposed to be independent and strong. Her fight for women's equal rights broadened her environmental commitments. Eventually she lost her academic position, her husband divorced her and she ended up as poor as she was a child. Not deterred by the adversities she was facing, she continued fighting on several fronts. She started the Greenbelt Movement to plant trees to reclaim the land as a campaign for and with rural women. Over time it gained such prominence that it was perceived as a threat by the authorities. Public show of opposition, such as the demonstrations to save Uhuru Park in Nairobi from President-friendly developers, increasingly identified Maathai and the Greenbelt Movement as a focus for opposition forces. They fought for human rights and dignity, anti-tribalism and democracy. The details of these struggles, the friendships and solidarity that Maathai experienced, both in Kenya in internationally, supported her morally and probably saved her life more than once.
Maathai's memoir is very personal and written from the heart. We get to know her thinking and feelings as well as a detailed description of the difficult life women and men who opposed the Moi regime faced. Her easy oing and conversational style softens the impact of her description of the arduous and sometimes even brutal experiences that she relays. At the same time, her story is a stirring example of how one person's strength and perseverance can make a difference to a people and the world. The Greenbelt Movement is now a motor for tree planting around Africa and beyond. This is an inspirational book as well as a historical record. Reading it will make you feel enriched. [Friederike Knabe]
sustaining life on our planet. She was strong, brave, clever- too clever it seems to some jealous men who have not learned to respect women yet and think of them as "the other" (Daphne du Maurier). I salute you Maathai. Some day your people i Kenya will understand what you did for them and salute you also as you deserve. Cynthia Allen McLaglen
I thought that the first part of her life, describing her education record up to her return to Kenya was the weakest part and seemed more like a catalogue of schools attended.
However, the whole pace changed when Wangari began her political work and took on the task of restoring the forests and re-empowering the lives of the ordinary people, especially the women.
Everyone should read this. Grass root politics, huge reserves of personal energy, a clear vision of what works in an impoverished environment, women's rights, government corruption, this book has it all.
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