Wanjira Mathai


When your mother is the late, great environmentalist and conservationist Wangari Maathai, it can prove tricky to uphold her legacy. Not when you are Wanjira Mathai. “I am not living in my mother’s shadow, I am basking in her light,” says the 50-year- old Kenyan environmentalist and activist of her journey from supporting her mother’s grassroots organization to today.

After completing a master’s in public health in the US, Mathai moved back to Kenya where she assisted her mother with the Green Belt Movement (GBM), an indigenous, non-governmental organization that Wangari had founded in 1997 to focus on environmental conservation and community development. In October 2004, Mathai was getting ready to travel back to the US when her mother became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. That is when Mathai decided she would stay in Kenya to support her mother’s work, grow the reach of GBM, and amplify her message that the environment and peace were inextricably linked. Now, she is the Managing Director for Africa and Global Partnerships at the World Resources Institute.