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Thoughts on Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Muta Maathai

‘Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with they are a source of inspiration, energy, and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and I will keep walking as long as my knees hold.’

PAGE 286


Unbowed is a biography of Wangari Muta Maathai, an honest read of one woman’s experience of life. Wangari was born in Nyeri, Kenya in 1940. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, an initiative where networks of women plant trees, these women have planted over 30 million trees across Kenya since 1977. Wangari was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her campaigns for democracy and environmental reform.

I am inspired by Wangari’s curiosity, she questioned why things were the way they were and how things could be made better. A curiosity founded in the need to understand the past, to inform the present and the future. Nothing is out of bounds, why do we think that everything we’ve been taught and told is true? Questions help us to see ethnic and gender barriers. Its healthy to want to know more and that should be encouraged. Wangari Maathai not only illuminates the importance of curiosity, she teaches us that it’s not only about asking questions but having a willingness to listen and learn, to think critically and analytically. While America was incredibly liberating, it was lonely and this is true of most of the journeys that we walk in this life that shape our purpose.

Wangari takes us through her journey founded on persistence. She had never been interested in what was said to be impossible. Always looking for a solution, focusing on what could be done to solve the problems that her community were facing. Wangari highlights the battles of duality when she was growing up. Having two names, a traditional one from home vs a colonial/religious one, tradition vs Christianity, speaking one language at home vs English at school. The trivialization of anything African creates foundations for self doubt and inferiority complex. Which should be challenged. Wangari paints an admirable picture of persistence and communal change. Wangari died in 2011 leaving a legacy that continues to impact change.


Book Details

Title: Unbowed

Author: Wangari Maathai

Genre: Biography

Pages: 336

Publisher: Arrow (March 2008)

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