The Kenyan environmentalist was the first black African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize and first and only environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She won the award for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
In 1977, during a time of political transition, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organization focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights.
Maathai served as a member of Parliament and assistant minister for Environment and Natural resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki from January 2003 to November 2005. She was an Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council. Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer in 2011.