Allow me to join the leaders of this great nation and the world in paying tribute to our beloved Professor Wangari Maathai.
I know that for her family, the pain of losing a mother, an aunt, a grandmother and a friend is very personal and very real. As the country prepares to accord her a State burial, I want to thank the family for allowing Kenyans to share in this private moment. I pray that you are comforted in knowing that we share in your loss and grief, and collectively we shall be asking the Almighty to step in where we are not able to.
Much has been said about our heroine and I will not begin to enumerate all her accomplishments. However, as I reflect upon her life… I feel compelled to say something about her.
In my eyes, Professor Maathai was the epitome of the African woman who is the pillar of her community. She is every bit as human as the rest of them, but will often sacrifice herself and her needs for the sake of her children and community.
First, I was awed by her courage and tenacious spirit; that she did not whimper with fear under the threat of political oppression or imprisonment. I am amazed that she did not buckle under the weight of her vision and enormous responsibilities even when support was not forthcoming. And I am glad that she did not wait for the validation and recognition by society and Kenya as a whole to carry out her life’s work.
Without such a spirit, the world would never have known how environmental degradation affects and disempowers women, especially those in rural areas who rely on forests for their livelihood. Without such a spirit, Kenya would not be home to the first African woman Nobel Prize laureate.
Secondly, she has reminded us the sort of leadership we need to thirst for. We need people who are able to rise above their own needs to meet the interests of the nation. We need people, whether young or old, who must not only comprehend the demands of their own affiliations but must be able to transcend them for the sake of the nation.
Professor Maathai was able to provide leadership that transcended her political party, ethnical group, gender and other institutions. She is a role model that we must exemplify.
Thirdly, I was deeply touched by her story of the ‘humming bird’. Therein lies a lesson; that we need not be big, mighty and powerful to take action. We must do the best we can under our circumstances to make this world a better place. We thank her for this powerful lesson.
It is sad that we did not appreciate her and her efforts, until the rest of the world recognised her. I feel that we now have the opportunity to step up to the plate.
This is therefore a call to fellow Kenyans and the Government.
There is no better way to pay tribute to Professor Wangari Maathai than to support her initiatives. Each one of us must be serious in our efforts to prevent and curb environmental degradation. Whether by planting a tree or by choosing not to litter; whether materially or physically. Let us be the humming bird that does what we can to sustain our environment, and consequently the livelihood of future generations.
RIP Professor Wangari Maathai.