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Meeting Wangari Maathai – environmental and social activist

The death of Wangari Maathai on 25th September 2011, took me back to the day I was fortunate to meet her. It was the same day as Live 8 Day in 2005.

At the time, I was the Mayor of Islington and for my year in office, I had a theme – a small campaign to try and affect public attitude in the borough. I called it “International In Islington”, where we celebrated different countries and regions linked with Islington – through our residents and the work done in the borough.

And to take the fact that we are international positively, instead of the negative outlook that some newspapers had and still have today.

That day I had three events to attend under my international theme. The first one was to celebrate Africa In Islington. The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Professor Wangari Maathai attended the African Diaspora and Development Day, held by the charity AFFORD on Holloway Road.

Professor Maathai was a member of the Kenyan government and was internationally recognised for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She had just became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Honourable Professor Wangari Maathai was the Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya. She was also the Founder and former co-ordinator of the Green Belt Movement.

I managed to spend some time talking to her in the “green room” before the event. For me, as someone who had spent 2 months in Kenya & had just finished working for the World Development Movement, meeting WangariMaathai on Live 8 Day at an African disapora event was tremendously special.

Like all the best campaigners I’ve ever met, she was utterly optimistic, she once said:
“I have always believed that, no matter how dark the cloud, there is always a thin, silver lining, and that is what we must look for us.”

If you care about campaigning, I can recommend her biography – but if at least Google or Wiki her and find out more about this important woman.