2004 Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai to speak at St. Thomas March 12

2004 Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai to speak at St. Thomas March 12

Dr. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan woman who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in her country’s struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation, will give a public lecture, “Sowing the Seeds of Change,” at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 12, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium at the University of St. Thomas.

General admission tickets are $10 and available beginning Monday, March 6, at the St. Thomas Box Office, lower level, Murray-Herrick Campus Center. Tickets are free for St. Thomas students, faculty and staff with ID (limit two). For ticket information, call (651) 962-6137.

Maathai, 55, was elected to Kenya ’s parliament in 2002 and was appointed Kenya ’s assistant minister for environment and natural resources in 2003. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1964 from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan.; a master of science in biological sciences in 1966 from the University of Pittsburgh; and a Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Nairobi in 1971. She was the first woman in east or central Africa to earn a doctorate and went on to teach and chair the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi as well as to direct the Kenya Red Cross.

In 1976, while serving in the National Council of Women of Kenya, she introduced the idea of a reforestation movement for her country. In 1977 she launched the Green Belt Movement. GBM’s main activity involved women’s groups planting trees to conserve the environment and empower themselves by improving their quality of life. The organization has helped women plant more than 30 million trees on their farms and in school and church compounds across Kenya.

In 1986, the organization expanded to launch similar initiatives throughout Africa, including tree-planting programs in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, among others.

Maathai was named to the International Women’s Hall of Fame in 1995, has received four honorary degrees and has received honors from numerous organizations throughout the world. She won the United Nations Africa Prize for Leadership in 1991, is listed in the UN Environment Program’s Global 500 Hall of Fame, and in 1997 was named by Earth Times as one of 100 people who have made a difference in the environment.

St. Thomas sponsors of Maathai’s public lecture include the Justice and Peace Studies Program, the University Lectures Committee, All College Council and Luann Dummer Center for Women.

The lecture’s co-sponsor is “ youthrive,” the Upper Midwest affiliate of PeaceJam International, in partnership with the Compass Institute. About 250 area youth are expected to attend PeaceJam 2006 Saturday and Sunday, March 11-12, at St. Thomas. Matthai will speak to attendees at the Sunday session.

PeaceJam International is an organization built around Nobel Peace laureates who work to inspire young people. The youthrive organization provides youth with leadership and community-service opportunities, especially around the concepts of peacebuilding, social justice, anti-racism, human and environmental rights, and ethical leadership. For more information about youthrive, call (651) 646-8008.