26.09.2011 - UNESCOPRESS

Irina Bokova expressed her sincere condolences on the passing of Wangari Maathai

© Martin RoweWangari Maathai was the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, expressed her deep sadness and sincere condolences on the passing of Ms. Wangari Maathai, who died on 25 September 2011 at the age of 71.

Professor Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This was awarded to her in 2004 in recognition of her work for sustainable development, democracy and peace. Her tireless work in pursuit of these values, through her Green Belt Movement, founded in 1977, as well as numerous other activities, also earned her a nomination as a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2009.

Ms. Maathai fought tirelessly to challenge gender inequality by providing positive examples of women’s achievements. She put this into practice through the Green Belt Movement, which encouraged poor rural women to plant trees and to utilize natural resources in order to overcome problems of poverty and hunger. She argued that these examples of women’s achievements should provide a powerful message to men, and for women themselves. In 2005, Ms. Maathai was a keynote speaker at the International Scientific Conference on biodiversity held at UNESCO in the presence of the French President Jacques Chirac, other dignitaries, and scientists.

Wangari Maathai was an outstanding example to all. She was a pioneer, a visionary and a leader. She showed through her life and her work how individuals can work for a culture of peace, and promote gender equality and environmental reform. In all of this, she incarnated the core values of UNESCO and the priorities that guide the Organization’s work.

The Director-General stated that UNESCO would continue to work in support of Wangari Maathai’s legacy in Africa and beyond.

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