Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wangari Maathai - A Dramatic Story - Part 4

The trees continue to grow. Today there are more than 6,000 Green Belt nurseries throughout Kenya that generate income for 150,000 people, and thirty-five million trees have deeply altered the physical and social landscape of the country. The Green Belt Movement has also started programs teaching women about indigenous foods, income generating activities, AIDS, and self-empowerment. Through cinema verité footage of the tree nurseries and the women and children who tend them, TAKING ROOT brings to life the confidence and joy of people working to improve their own lives while also ensuring the future and vitality of their land.

Dr. Maathai planting a tree
Through intimate conversations with Maathai, whose warm, powerful, and luminous presence imbues much of the film, TAKING ROOT captures a world-view in which nothing is perceived as impossible, presenting an awe-inspiring profile of one woman's thirty-year journey of courage to protect the environment, ensure equality between men and women, defend human rights, and promote democracy--all sprouting from the achievable act of planting trees.

Dr. Maathai stresses a point
In her Nobel Peace Prize speech, Wangari Maathai said, "Although initially the Green Belt Movement's tree planting activities did not address issues of democracy and peace, it soon became clear that responsible governance of the environment was impossible without democratic space. Therefore, the tree became a symbol for the democratic struggle.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wangari Maathai - A Dramatic Story - Part 3

As the trees and the Green Belt Movement grew, a spirit of hope and confidence also grew in ordinary citizens – especially in women – only to be met with violent opposition from the government. Maathai and her colleagues soon found themselves victims of President Moi's political oppression. In response, Maathai’s political activism only grew. At great risk she lead numerous confrontations in defense of the environment and social justice each of which brought her country closer to democracy.

Daniel arap Moi - Former President/dictator of Kenya
TAKING ROOT, through TV footage, newspaper headlines, and chilling first person accounts, documents these dramatic confrontations of the 1980s and 1990s and captures Maathai's infectious determination and unwavering courage. Through perseverance and widespread grassroots organization, Kenya's fight for democracy finally prevailed. In 2002 a new democratically elected government replaced Moi's, and Maathai became a member of the new Parliament and Assistant Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources.

Contd ...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wangari Maathai - A Dramatic Story - Part 2

Dr. Maathai was raised in the rural highlands of Kenya, educated in the United States during the 1960s civil rights era, and the first female to receive a PhD in East Africa, Maathai discovered the heart of her life's work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up.

Women in the Green Belt Movement planting seedlings
They told her that their daily lives had become intolerable: they were walking longer distances for firewood, clean water had become scarce, the soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. Maathai thought to herself, "Well, why not plant trees?" Trees provide shade, prevent soil erosion, supply firewood and building materials, and produce nutritious fruit to combat malnutrition. With this realization Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization encouraging rural women to plant trees.

A seemingly innocuous idea, Maathai soon discovered that tree planting had a ripple effect of empowering change. In the mid 1980s, Kenya was under the repressive regime of Daniel arap Moi under whose dictatorship group gatherings were outlawed. In tending their nurseries women had a legitimate reason to gather outside their homes and discuss the roots of their problems. These grassroots women soon found themselves working successively against deforestation, poverty, ignorance, embedded economic interests, and political oppression, until they became a national political force.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Wangari Maathai - A Dramatic Story - Part 1

An activist, an environmentalist, a farmer, a politician, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, a no-nonsense leader, A WOMAN! 

Dr. Wangari Maathai's story begins with the act of planting trees for fuel, shade and food and peaks with her a award of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Dr. Maathai is a woman born in rural Kenya, who started down the path that reclaimed her country’s land from 100 years of deforestation, provided new sources of food and income to rural communities, gave previously impoverished and powerless women a vital political role in their country, and ultimately helped to bring down Kenya's twenty-four-year dictatorship.

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai is a documentary film documenting the dramatic story of a woman  whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy—a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration.

The film weaves a compelling and dramatic narrative of her personal journey in the context of the turbulent political and environmental history of her country.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Women of Southern Sudan Still Standing

Official results of the referendum indicated a 98% voter turn out and reports indicate hat 52% of the voters were women. Women constitute about 60% of Southern Sudan's population. 

In the two decades of political struggle with the North, women endured abject poverty, illiteracy, violence and were not allowed to participate in political leadership. The rule of law was based on customary laws that were clearly biased against women.

Southern Sudan Woman with ethnic scarification markings
The new constitution provides the right of women to participate in public life, it stipulates the rights to equal pay for equal work and for women to own and inherit property. The constitution requires this new government to enact laws that prohibit harmful traditional practices and provide child-care and medical care for pregnant women.

The women fought for these rights. They were not afraid to raise their voices and be heard. They said Enough is Enough! Change has to come and it has come.

The honeymoon is over. The work has began. The women of Southern Sudan are still standing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Women Forbidden to Drive in Saudi Arabia... BUT...

Manal al-Sharif says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Manal Al-Sharif

Manal Al-Sharif is a women's rights activist from Saudi Arabia. This year (2011) she filmed herself driving a car as part of a campaign to overturn a ban forbidding women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Manal Al-Sharif was detained and released on May 21 and rearrested the following day. She was released on bail on May 30 on bail, on the conditions fo retruning for questioning if requested, not driving and not talking to the media.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world in which it is forbidden for women to drive cars.


Made in Dagenham is a movie dramatizing women who had had enough of inequality in the workforce. They stood up and rocked all the "male-dominated boats" around the industrialized world. They shouted with one voice and Parliament was forced to listen and act in their favor against the big corporations.

Where are the women in this generation that have the guts to stand up and be counted as change-makers?

Have we lost our voices? When will we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?!

Heroines are not born, they are made.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pray the Devil Back to Hell!

The women of Liberia said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! They forced the men to come up with a resolution, had Charles Taylor deposed and steered the way for the election of the first female Head of State in Africa - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - President of Liberia

Friday, August 19, 2011


Kenyan women have been marginalized for more than 40 years. The new constitution made an end to this historical farce by including Article 81(b) which says: “Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.” This meant that at least 72 or the 290 constituencies must elect women MPs, in addition to the 47 county seats set aside for them.

However, this week the government of President Mwai Kibaki proposed to drop this new constitutional requirement claiming that it would be "technically impossible to achieve". This would deny Kenyan women the opportunity availed under the new constitution to hold a third of elective posts in the country and hence continued marginalization of women in this "progressive" republic.

The Kenyan women are rising up and are stirring a storm. They have sworn to fight and vowed they will not budge an inch. They have come too far to look back again.

Daily Nation
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