Melitta J. Cutright
OAK BROOK, Illinois, USA, June 1, 2010 – Wangari Maathai, an internationally known environmental activist and founder of the Green Belt Movement, a broad based grassroots organization that works to reduce poverty and protect the environment, will be the recipient of the 2010 Lions Humanitarian Award. In 2004 Maathai, who is from Kenya, became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” She links critical issues relating to the environment to the struggle for democracy and human rights, especially for women.
Maathai will be presented with this prestigious award at the 93rd Lions Clubs International Convention in Sydney, Australia. She will speak at 9:00 on Thursday, July 1 in the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
“We are proud to honor this outstanding leader,” says Eberhard J. Wirfs, president of Lions Clubs International. “Lions clubs around the world share her interest in protecting the environment and promoting peace. Lions, along with Professor Maathai, support the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating poverty and hunger, improving education, empowering women, combating diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS and ensuring environmental sustainability.”
The Lions Humanitarian Award, the highest honor of the association,
includes a US$200,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation
for continuing humanitarian activities. Previous recipients include
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Yunus and Mother Teresa.
Early in life Maathai recognized the economic and social costs of deforestation in rural Kenya. The Green Belt movement addresses these and other environmental, economic and social concerns by advocating the planting of trees and opposing the clearing of forests. Since 1977 Maathai’s movement has helped women plant more than 40 million trees on community lands and farms, which has provided fuel, shelter and income and improved the social and economic position of women in their families and communities.
Her interests in protecting the environment go far beyond planting trees. She is a strong proponent of the Four Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair, to which she adds a fifth R – Respect for resources. She is active in efforts to protect the Congo basin, which has been described, along with the Amazon, as the world’s two remaining forest “lungs” since they play an important role in absorbing greenhouse gas and providing oxygen.
The Green Belt Movement has spread outside Kenya and become linked with efforts to extend democracy and foster peace. In 2005 she founded the Green Belt Movement International.
Maathai was a leading activist in the successful movement to bring democracy back to Kenya through peaceful means in 2002. She served in the Kenya parliament from 2002-2007. Educated in Kenya and the United States, she was the first woman in east Africa to earn a PhD.
In 2009 Maathai was appointed a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations. Other honors include the Nelson Mandela Award for Health & Human Rights in South Africa, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in India and France’s Legion D’Honneur.
Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs in 206 countries and geographic areas. In addition to its efforts toward conquering blindness, the organization has made a strong commitment to community service and helping youth throughout the world. To learn more about Lions Clubs International, visit www.lionsclubs.org.
Attention media: Media passes will be available from the
Convention Operations Office, Exhibit Hall 1 Foyer, Sydney Convention
and Exhibition Centre. For more information about convention events,
visit the Online Convention.