“African women in general need to know that it’s okay for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.”

Wangari Maathai – Nobel laureate, women’s rights activist, environmentalist, and Daraja girls’ role model – passed away in Nairobi last night after a struggle with ovarian cancer.

Maathai will be remembered as a powerful woman in Kenyan politics; and the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She was also the founder of the Green Belt Movement, an organization that has brought awareness of environmental conservation in Africa, planted millions of trees across the continent and promoted sustainable agriculture for food security.

Tonight the girls watched the documentary “Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai,” which looks into the work she did with the Greenbelt Movement.

Wangari Maathai; Yale Club, New York City, 2002; Photo by Martin Rowe,

She will be fondly remembered for the enormous changes she brought to Kenya and Africa.

“Wangari Maathai has influenced my life very much. She is my role model. She has done so much for the environment, has planted so many trees and has e