The first African woman to receive the Nobel peace prize, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, is an international leader who draws her strength from the grass root level. I have previously posted an article encouraging women to read her autobiography, but when I recently saw watched a documentary on her life as a laureate, I felt I should again tell my new found community about her.
“I travel around the world, I sit in meetings with great men, but I have to go back to the grassroots because that is where the work is done. That is where change is being implemented one day at a time.” This is what she said in the documentary.
Environment is a matter of life and death and Wangari Maathai has been able to empower the woman at the grass root level, the rural woman, to protect the environment one tree at a time. She has taught the rural woman about the importance of protecting the environment, making it inhabitable for the next and the next generation by simply planting trees. She has not stopped there; she has also been able to provide a source of income for these women. It was remarkable to see her mingling with the women, and you could feel the joy and enthusiasm of the rural women who were part of the documentary.
Hers is a grand mission implemented in the simplest way and receiving remarkable results. The rural women are a group in the African society that is in most cases ignored, their role in development has always been ignored: she is always assumed to be too domestic. But what they are doing by simply planting the trees has an impact that affects even the future.
This reminded me of the importance of simplicity. There has been the tendency of sophisticating issues in order to emphasize its importance, yet simplicity makes sure that a wider audience receives the message.
I thought Wangari Maathai style of handling the issue of environment could be a lesson, to the world at large. Those perceived to be elite, or rich, form a small part of the worldwide community. The masses are those who walk on the land and work for the land, and that is where the action is.