Kenyan environmentalist and politician who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004
- "We must resist the notion that there is only one way to be a woman, one way to be African, and one way to be human."
- "I think what the Nobel committee is doing is going beyond war and looking at what humanity can do to prevent war. Sustainable management of our natural resources will promote peace."
- Interview in TIME (10 October 2004)
- (WHAT'S THE PLANET'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE?) The environment. We are sharing our resources in a very inequitable way. We have parts of the world that are very deprived and parts of the world that are very rich. And that is partly the reason why we have conflict.
Interview in TIME (10 October 2004)
- "As I conclude I reflect on my childhood experience when I would visit a stream next to our home to fetch water for my mother. I would drink water straight from the stream. Playing among the arrowroot leaves I tried in vain to pick up the strands of frogs’ eggs, believing they were beads. But every time I put my little fingers under them they would break. Later, I saw thousands of tadpoles: black, energetic and wriggling through the clear water against the background of the brown earth. This is the world I inherited from my parents. Today, over 50 years later, the stream has dried up, women walk long distances for water, which is not always clean, and children will never know what they have lost. The challenge is to restore the home of the tadpoles and give back to our children a world of beauty and wonder."
- Nobel lecture (10 December 2004)
- "Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking."
- Speech at Goldman Awards, San Francisco (24 April 2006)
- "In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground- a time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now."
- Quoted in Woman power to the fore, by R.S. Binuraj, The Hindu (1 July 2017)
- Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.
- The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.
- I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it.
- Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don't need a diploma to plant a tree.
- “There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.”
- “In trying to explain this linkage, I was inspired by a traditional African tool that has three legs and a basin to sit on. To me the three legs represent three critical pillars of just and stable societies. The first leg stands for democratic space, where rights are respected, whether they are human rights, women's rights, children's rights, or environmental rights. The second represents sustainable and equitable management and resources. And the third stands for cultures of peace that are deliberately cultivated within communities and nations. The basin, or seat, represents society and its prospects for development. Unless all three legs are in place, supporting the seat, no society can thrive. Neither can its citizens develop their skills and creativity. When one leg is missing, the seat is unstable; when two legs are missing, it is impossible to keep any state alive; and when no legs are available, the state is as good as a failed state. No development can take place in such a state either. Instead, conflict ensues.” 
- “What people see as fearlessness is really persistence.” 
- “Hallowed landscapes lost their sacredness and were exploited as the local people became insensitive to the destruction, accepting it as a sign of progress.” 
- “You would see me there now, cultivating the earth and carrying firewood on my back up the hills to my home, where I would light a fire and cook the evening meal. I would not tell stories, because they have been replaced by books, the radio, and television” 
- “You don't need a diploma to plant a tree.”
- No matter how dark the cloud, there is always a thin, silver lining, and that is what we must look for. The silver lining will come, if not to us then to next generation or the generation after that. And maybe with that generation the lining will no longer be thin.
The Challenge for Africa (2009) edit
- nobody knows the solution to every problem; rather than blindly following the prescriptions of others, Africans need to think and act for themselves, and learn from their mistakes.
- We all share one planet and are one humanity; there is no escaping this reality.
Unbowed (2006) edit
- Trees are living symbols of peace and hope. A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance. It is a reminder to all of us who have had success that we cannot forget where we came from. It signifies that no matter how powerful we become in government or how many awards we receive, our power and strength and our ability to reach our goals depend on the people, those whose work remain unseen, who are the soil out of which we grow, the shoulders on which we stand.
Wangari Maathai:"You Strike The Woman..." by Priscilla Sears (1991) edit
published in the quarterly In Context #28 (Spring 1991)
- "I don't really know why I care so much. I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it. I think that is what I would call the God in me.
All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet. It must be this voice that is telling me to do something, and I am sure it's the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet — at least everybody who seems to be concerned about the fate of the world, the fate of this planet."
- "I kept stumbling and falling and stumbling and falling as I searched for the good. 'Why?' I asked myself. Now I believe that I was on the right path all along, particularly with the Green Belt Movement, but then others told me that I shouldn't have a career, that I shouldn't raise my voice, that women are supposed to have a master. That I needed to be someone else. Finally I was able to see that if I had a contribution I wanted to make, I must do it, despite what others said. That I was OK the way I was. That it was all right to be strong."
- As quoted in the article Wangari Maathai:"You Strike The Woman ..." by Priscilla Sears in the quarterly In Context #28 (Spring 1991)
- "The people are starving. They need food; they need medicine; they need education. They do not need a skyscraper to house the ruling party and a 24-hour TV station."
- On her opposition to the construction of a skyscraper in Nairobi, Kenya, as quoted in the article Wangari Maathai:"You Strike The Woman ..." by Priscilla Sears in the quarterly In Context #28 (Spring 1991)
Quotes about Maathai edit
- Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.
- The Norwegian Nobel Committee official announcement (8 October 2004)
- BBC profile
- Wangari Maathai Quotable Quotes at Friends of the Green Belt Movement North America
- Article on Wangari Maathai
- Nobel Committee official press release
- Quotable Quotes on Maathai's home page