Wanjira Mathai: Following in Her Mother’s Footsteps 

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Wanjira Mathai: Following in Her Mother's Footsteps 
Wanjira Mathai Photocredit/Courtesy

By Prudence Minayo

Wanjira Mathai is a Kenyan environmentalist who continues the legacy of her late mother, the Nobel Prize winner Prof. Wangari Mathai. She has served as a senior advisor at the World Resources Institute and in 2018, 2020 and 2021 was selected by New African magazine among 100 Most Influential African Women. She serves as the vice president and regional director for Africa at the World Resources Institute in Nairobi. Here, her role includes fighting issues like deforestation. 

30 Million Trees

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She is also on a campaign to plant 30 million trees by 2030 through the Green Belt Movement which was founded in 1977 by Wangari Mathai. The organization’s aim is to ensure Kenya remains a green country. The organization is notable for its contribution to the conservation of Karura Forest and Uhuru Park. Following the death of her mother, she helped steer the organization through the period of change. 

Apart from being an environmentalist, she is an EQ practitioner (someone whose aim is to promote emotional intelligence and support others to create a positive culture).

Also Read: Maureen Okomo: Meet Kenya’s First Female Licensed Aeronautical Engineer

Education 

Born in 1971, she attended State House Girls High School and thereafter attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She graduated in 1994 having pursued Biology. She went on to graduate with a Masters in Public Health and in Business Administration from Emory University. 

Career 

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At the beginning of her career, she worked at Carter Center in the disease control department. She learnt about illnesses that affected communities across Africa including lymphatic filariasis and dracunculiasis.

Wanjira is a board member at the Green Belt Movement. She previously served as its chair. She got in the movement through helping her mother in her environmental conservation work. She had taken a one-year break from work and while at home got the chance to help out with her mother’s work. She would check her e-mails and organize fundraisers. It is through this that she saw the importance of the work of the late Wangari. 

She was director of international affairs at the movement before becoming executive director. To date, she has served and still serves in various organizations as:

  • Senior advisor for the partnerships for Women Entrepreneurs in Renewables. The organization works to bring renewable energy to women across East Africa. 
  • Advisory board of the Clean Cooking Alliance 
  • Member of the Earth Chapter International Council 
  • Board of Trustees of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • Board of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF)
  • Chair of the Wangari Mathai Foundation 

“I am not living in my mother’s shadow. I am basking in her light,” Wanjira Mathai.

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