, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 26 – The late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai’s family has described her demise as a great loss to them and the society at large.
Through their spokesperson Vertistine Mbaya, they said the shock over her death was too great to comprehend.
Mbaya said nothing can replace the understanding way she dealt with them and the comfort she provided during hard times.
“I am devastated. We must try our best to find something that will give us a little comfort… the kind of comfort she herself would have given us if she would have walked out of that hospital,” she stated.
She described Maathai as a charismatic person who always influenced those around her positively.
“That gap involves her capacity to inspire all of us into action. We will also miss her charisma. She had an extraordinary quantity of charisma that provoked individuals to want to support the actions that she initiated,” she recounted.
She further pointed out that the late Nobel laureate was also courageous and stood firm on her ideals.
“She strived very much to project certain ideals. All of you know the ideals that she had, that we should all be courageous, so that we can stand up for certain principals,’ she demonstrated that. She was also a transparent person. Whatever she did, she did it with the light of day shining on it.”
The 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner died while undergoing treatment at the Nairobi Hospital.
She succumbed to ovarian cancer at 11pm on Sunday night, just over a year since she was diagnosed with disease, in July 2010.
The 71-year-old political activist is well known for her constant battles with government to protect Kenya’s forests.
Ovarian cancer is a growth arising from the ovary. Symptoms are known to be very subtle early on and may include bloating, pelvic pain, difficulty eating and frequent urination, and are easily confused with other illnesses.
In 1977, 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.
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.
Talk of her health surfaced early this year but remained a closely guarded secret.
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.
Maathai leaves behind three children.