Wangari Maathai's Literary Impact

The transformative power of Wangari Maathai’s life and journey evidenced through her significant literary impact.

The transformative power of Wangari Maathai’s life and journey is reflected in how today’s young change-makers from Greta Thunberg, to Vanessa Nakate as well as individual members of society champion environmental and democratic rights on a daily basis. Her significant literary impact is however less known. She wrote four books that summarise her remarkable accomplishments in her fight for the environment, and sustainable development in Africa. Her inspirational memoir, Unbowed, recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the international environmental and human rights activist.


Wangari Maathai was passionate about the environment, in her book, The Green Belt Movement, she outlines its inception, operations, and future potential. Through her interaction with nature, Wangari noticed a disconnect between people and the physical earth. In her book, Replenishing the Earth, she distinctly explains how human beings can relate to the earth. As a change-maker and a great leader, Wangari Maathai keenly observed what was happening around her. She saw the problem that Africa was facing, in her book Challenge for Africa, Maathai gives “hard-headed hope” and “realistic options” for change and improvement.

Several authors have written books that featured Wangari Maathai’s work. Dr. Florence Namulunda, author of the Wangari Maathai: Visionary, Environmental Leader, and Political Activist, is one of them. Through the lens of feminist theory, she examines and unpacks the social and political background of Maathai’s life and work in her book. Kerry Kennedy, a human rights defender also highlighted Wangari as one of the courageous women who dramatically changed the course of events in her country in his book Speaking Truth to Power. Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé also featured Wangari in their book, Hope’s Edge, a story of a mother and her daughter traveling the world to find ways to heal the planet and transcend consumerism and capitalism.

Aside from authoring and co-authoring books, over seven children’s books have been written about her life and times. Her ability to capture our imagination is reflected in the powerful legacy.

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