Here is the final version of my speech. It is in the view of a poor Kenyan woman who was influenced by Wangari Maathai. Enjoy!
Look around. What do you all have in common? You are Canadian. I, on the other hand, am not. I am Kenyan. I am also a woman and unfortunately, my society has labeled me as hopeless. When I was only five years old I was told that I wasn’t allowed to go to school by my mother. She told me I had to help at the house and that I didn’t need an education because when I grow up, I won’t be a doctor, a teacher, or an astronaut. I won’t have a choice. I will be a mother, and thats all I’ll ever be. At least thats what I thought.
When I was 18, in 1960, my friend told me that there was a lady by the name of Wangari Maathai who just went to America to go to college. Apparently, she had lived in a nearby village and won a scholarship. A mixture of emotions swept over me. I was amazed by her accomplishment, since it was very rare for a woman to go to America on a scholarship. But deep down, I felt something else. There was the slightest bit of hope, that I could be who I wanted to be.
From then on, rumours of Wangari’s life reached me – that she went to school at the age of 8, that she was so smart, that she went to high school, that she got a master’s degree in America. And, that she was going to be returning to Kenya soon!
The rumors were confirmed and Wangari Maathai came back to Kenya to study veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi. Then, in 1971, a newspaper article with the headline, “WANGARI MAATHAI BREAKS HISTORY”, was shared by a visitor to our village. It was about her becoming the first woman, in all of eastern Africa, to earn a doctoral degree.
At that time, our village was in chaos. First, our stream started drying up, which caused a drought, which killed the cabbage crops. My husband, Elias, was a cabbage farmer so we started to run out of money. The banana trees started to wither and die too, so we had less firewood to cook with. Then my 8 year old sister, Faith, got sick from bacteria in the water because I couldn’t boil it. Many others got sick from contaminated water. This is when everyone started to panic.
We couldn’t boil our water without firewood, the sick, such as my little sister, needed a vaccine that we couldn’t afford. Our future was looking grim. That was, until Wangari Maathai came.
It was a hot day, and a red truck drove right into the heart of the village and out stepped the woman who not long ago, was on the front cover of the newspaper; Wangari Maathai.I was standing with a small group of children as she approached us. Shes said,
“Have you had problems with the firewood in your village? How about your village’s income? What about your families?’ I could barely speak, but I mustered a weak smile and said, “We have had many problems in our village. Most of our problems are threatening our lives.”
Wangari reassuringly put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Well, you need not worry my strong fighter, I am here to help. Round up all of the women in your village and meet me back here”.
Once all of the women arrived, Wangari reached into her pocket and brought out many seeds. She gave them to a little boy walking by and she told him to give a seed to each woman. The boy did as he was told and soon enough, I had a seed in my hand.
Wangari continued, “Women, we are underestimated. For years, we have been the weaker sex. We alone will rise up and we will to save our village. I want you to work together to grow seedlings, to plant trees to bind the soil, to store rain water, to provide food and firewood, and to help the environment. In return, I will give you a token for your work. This is the vision of the Green Belt Movement, an organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. I started this organization, and I want you to benefit from it. I want you to have hope, because hope starts with a seed, and it will grow and grow until it finally becomes reality,”
We all looked at her with a new light in our eyes. We all felt something deep down. I had felt it before when I was 18, when i found hope, when I planted my seed of hope. Wangari had it and I had it. We all got to work, and we opened the truck up. There were supplies for planting trees and seedlings. We spent the next few day learning how to take care of the trees, watering the fields of cabbages, and listening to Wangari’s knowledge for the world.
After she left, the village was doing better than ever. The trees were growing in nicely, the firewood was abundant, and little Faith got the vaccine she needed because Elias’ cabbage crop was earning income again. I, on the other hand, am now an environmentalist. I finished high school and went to university for 5 years. At first my mother resisted but then I told her my story, this story. She then understood. Wangari gave me the courage to do so. Now I work with Wangari in the Green Belt Movement,
Because of Wangari, I have choice in my life. If you think about it, I always had that choice but I just needed the hope that Wangari first inspired in 1960. When Wangari Maathai touched my life, she helped me to nurture my seed of hope and it has grown into a tree of prosperity.
It’s now 2004, I am happily working my job. Elais is making money farming cabbages, and Faith is going to school! As for Wangari, she just won the nobel peace prize.
Wangari inspired me to plant my seed, and I hope I just inspired you to plant yours.
"We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!" -Wangari Maathai This is it. This is the project I have had mixed feelings about for several months. EMINENT. I don't know if I'm nervous, excited,or both. Oh well, here it goes.…
Biblography. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!! Hilarious. Anyways, I actually only used sites and videos for my project and no books so here you go. Websites http://www.biography.com/people/wangari-maathai-13704918 This sites was super helpful. It gave me a lot of info about her and her life. If you wanted the basics of her life, I would recommend going here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wangari_Maathai…