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15, Mar

IWD Reflection – The Power of One

Wangari Maathai, she started with planting seven trees which became a nationwide movement with 44 million trees across Kenya and today she remains a symbol of what is possible for women especially young women in Kenya. Highly educated, a member of the parliament she remained deeply rooted in the ground realities of her people around. She saw, she heard, the struggles of the women in relation to water, failing crops, waterborne diseases and searching the root causes she realised deforestation was at the root of the problems. She started responding with getting the women to plant trees. Outcome? Not just trees but community involvement, building leadership in the community, food security, healthy environment and above all a challenge and inspiration to many young women never to give up. When she was announced the Nobel laureate on her way to meeting a women’s group in a field in a far-off village, no pressure from her professional colleagues would turn her back to the capital for the press conferences that awaited her as keeping the promises to rural women was her priority till a presidential call and a helicopter fetched her to the capital. We listened to the living testimonies of her influence on young women.

Noluathando Nzimande, a 17 year old from Grail Girls and Women’s Leadership and training program from South Africa, shared how she was inspired to go back and educate her community about the harmful effects of GMO when she realised that her government had brought in Monsanto to provide genetically modified seeds in her village. They stopped Monsanto & GMO and saved their indigenous seeds!

Princess Ella Tamufor, another young woman, founded Sustain Africa to inspire young people towards sustainable development and she is the focal point for the road to Rio+20 Global Youth Coalition.

Maria Viana da Silva from Brazil expressed tenacity in the midst of poverty and many associated challenges, finding her way to the university and is a strong human Rights activist. She initiated Young Feminist Activism Initiative, Association for Women’s Rights in development. She dreams of becoming the Secretary General of the UN one day!

Susan Kageni, Outreach Manager of Jamii Bora, was one of 23 children and had to leave her country in search of a job and found a husband instead. She lived in an abusive relationship for 15 years before she started asking herself what she could do with her life and that of the many women who shared with her familiar stories of betrayal and domestic violence. She formed an association of these women and began their own business which was ruined by her husband. But never to be defeated she stood her ground and built up an organisation that has bettered her own and other women’s lives.

Wangari Maathai is no more but her indomitable spirit lives on in the young and not so young women of Africa and in the green forests of Kenya. May the power of one give us courage to follow our dreams.


Elsa Muttathu pbvm


One Response to “IWD Reflection – The Power of One”

  1. mary ivers says:

    very good work Elsa and while women´s day has come and gone I still enjoyed your reflections. Keep up the good work at IPA

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