Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai

As you may know, I serve as Vice-Chairperson of The Association of Kenyan Professionals in Atlanta, (AKPA).

AKPA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the wellbeing of its members, through the mobilization of resources here in Atlanta.

Prior to my current term, I enjoyed a two-year spell as Chairperson of the Education Committee of AKPA. The committee is charged with sourcing scholarship funds for Kenyan students, facilitating the professional growth of the students and supporting them in their transition after graduation.

I am often asked where I find the time to fulfill my duties as a mother of three, a loving wife, a full-time employee, and an active board member of a non-profit.

I respond by saying that I make the time. I watch very few hours of television; a few select programs here and there, the news, and of course important football/soccer matches. I joined a vanpool, and this provides me with two extra hours per day, during which time I read, write or rest. Simply put, I try to manipulate time to make it my ally. As a result, I have realized great joy from minimal but consistent investment of time in non-profit work.

A special moment presented itself during my tenure as Education Committee Chair. I was nominated by the board to serve as Event Committee Chair for a reception planned here in Atlanta, in honor of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai.

AKPA had anticipated the glorious opportunity to honor the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and two years after her award, our moment came. We felt energized and inspired by our fellow Kenyan, a woman who has dedicated her life to development, democracy and peace. As you can imagine, we threw ourselves into planning the best event! Fortunately for us, Professor Maathai's moral authority by now, was well appreciated the world over, and most of our corporate sponsors actually vied for the opportunity to participate.
Event Committee members with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai (5th from left). I am at the end in black and gold.

The event was very well attended. Here we see guests listening to Dr. Maathai's keynote address after enjoying refreshments.

I am excited to share with you that Professor Maathai and the Green Belt Movement she founded are the focus of an award-winning documentary film to be shown on PBS stations on Tuesday (April 14, 2009) in the United States. Click here for more information and channel listings. The feature includes interviews with Dr. Maathai and other Kenyan activists as well as archival footage from the colonial era. Below are a few clips of the film. I hope you can find the time to watch it. I will not miss it.

Baadaye basi,

Mama Shujaa.


  1. It's very unfortunate that the world adores Wangari and honours her work and advice yet very few people back home take her seriously. If we reduced political polarity and TV channels back home showed more of Wangari's wise speeches, Kenya would be one of the most developped and peaceful country.
    Great post Mama....I pray more will seek to make her vision a reality.

  2. Time is not there to be your slave, you have to control it and make it yours. Wonderful post. You definitely have some very good time management skills. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  3. Thanks a lot Mama, I also just did a post on her new book The Challenge for Africa: http://tinyurl.com/cxlh6d

    Have you read the book?

  4. @Cee: I agree with you on that. Politicians should aspire to the highest form of authority for the good of man; they should transcend any other form of authority/power. I am sure Dr. Maathai will be remembered far into the future, not for the fact that she was in Parliament in Kenya, but because of her deep moral beliefs.

  5. @ACIL: Thank you. It is an ongoing discipline.

    @Rafiki: I just read your review. Thanks. I have read Unbowed. The Challenge For Africa is next on my list.

  6. Manipulating time...I love it! You are a true example of what us Execumamas try to be. Doing what's important to you, and MAKING the time to do your part. Thank you for sharing your life, your way, and your light. You look beautiful in the black and gold, by the way :)

  7. Professor Maathai is an absolute inspiration. I read ‘Unbowed’ and was awed and enlightened and utterly enthralled. She is – and has been – a shining beacon in a world where so little is done for so many. Thank you so much, Mama Shujaa, for sharing your involvment with this astonishing and admirable woman with us. And, yes, my goodness you do look beautiful as you stand there with Professor Maathai....

    The Green Belt Movement is very close to my heart - I do hope we get to see the film here in England. Somehow, I rather doubt we will.

    PS. There is an award I would very much like to pass on to you over at my place. It is called 'Palabras Como Rosas' which, as you probably know, means 'Words like Roses' when translated to English. Your words are indeed like that most beautiful of flowers.

  8. @ Execumama: Thank you Execumama, leader of the pack! :-)

    @Tessa: Thank you so much for that award and for your kind words.

  9. What a great resource to have for expats! I’m impressed that you can do that on top of working full time and looking after three kids. I don’t watch much TV – just the Daily Show because it’s always good to end a day with laughter. You look gorgeous in black and gold.

  10. Mama, I'd like to reblog this whole piece on my blog is it's okay with you.

    holla back please


  11. I just came back to watch the films – how wonderful! When I was in Kenya, we studied game ranching which was better for the soil than cattle ranching. The green belt mov’t shows how much can be done with so little. Maathai well deserved the Nobel prize.

  12. that must have been quite an honour! i really respect Wangari Mathai and to see Kenya's forest covver to decline to 7% is horrendous experience yet the politicians are playing politics with the degradation of mau forest-how low can we go?

  13. She is definitely an inspiration. Individuals working in unison, not governments, will transform Africa, if you ask me. We just have to protect those that are doing good work.

  14. What an entirely gorgeous group of ladies. I am glad that Tessa bridged us.

  15. @ Sarah: Thank you and I am glad you took the time to watch the clips.

    @ RE Ausekmt: Thank you but I would much rather welcome you and your readers back to my place to read about this inspiring African woman.

    @Nairobian: That is why Dr. Maathai's efforts while she was in parliament will be appreciated more in the sweet bye and bye...

    @Solomonsydelle: I agree with you, each one teach one.

    @Beth Kephart: Thanks for your visit and Karibu tena [come again]

  16. Dear Mama, It's an honor to meet you, what an inspiration you are. I so agree with you that time is what we make of it.
    How exciting to meet with 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai!! I'm sure it was an unforgettable moment in time for you all. You are simply stunning in your black and gold. I'm going to watch the videos now and put the book on my list.
    ♥ lori

  17. I will do the same as Lori and I agree totally with her and your other commenters! You are so beautiful! And I am glad you remind me of that great lady from Kenya. Thank you Mama! I will teach my pupils about her.

  18. @Lori Ann and Angela: Thank you for the kind comments and for stopping by!

  19. I am so sorry to have missed to opportunity o be a part of the wonderful exchange above regarding the inspirational Dr. Wangari Maathai! Dr. Maathai is such an amazing woman to me for her tenacity and courage to stand up for women and to protect nature's finite resources! I read Unbowed and I am trying to track down the Challenge of Africa. Thank you for sharing and what an honor it must have been to meet and host the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Maathai.
    And, your time management skills are quite impressive ;0)


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