#BeBoldForChange ― Remembering Wangari Maathai

“The tree is living, it is beautiful, it inspires, it grow upwards, it gives shade, it brings back life, and so the tree becomes a symbol of hope.” ― Wangari Maathai Photograph: Sandi Knight

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. A woman who embodied this, long before being bold was acceptable, was Wangari Maathai. She was a fearless visionary who faced problems head-on and implemented solutions with determination, grit and heart.

From the first time I heard of Wangari Maathai, her story resonated with me. Born in Nyeri, a rural area of Kenya, in 1940, this self-proclaimed “child of the soil” loved the feeling of contentment she experienced when working on the land alongside her mother. She had a deep connection with the environment, with trees and with people which led her to a host of achievements in her 71 years.

She was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, the first female head of a university department in Kenya and the first African woman and first environmentalist to become a Nobel laureate. Wangari Maathai was an elected member of Parliament in Kenya and assistant Minister of Environment. She authored four books. Her list of credits and accomplishments is lengthy but did not come without significant struggle. Over the years she was arrested, jailed and beaten, but she never gave up on her beliefs. Until her passing in 2011, she continued to strive for improvements in environmental conservation, democracy and human rights.

Members of the Green Belt Movement prepare seedlings.  Photograph: Wendy Stone/Reuters

The world became much more aware of Professor Maathai in 2004 when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots, non-governmental organization which she founded in 1977. After hearing rural women of Kenya speak of their struggles to find firewood and water, of the loss of topsoil, of malnutrition diseases in their children, she understood that deforestation was connected to it all. Her response, “Why not plant trees?” And so, despite ridicule and many hurdles, her mission began.

The women were paid a small fee to plant and care for trees. Earning an income, while protecting and preserving their land and resources improved their lives, but also ensured a better future. Professor Maathai understood by empowering these women to break the cycle, change would reverberate in the world around them. She  understood the connection between the environment and social, economic and political issues, “…not only were we planting trees, but we were planting seeds of peace, seeds for democracy, seeds for respect for human rights.”

The Green Belt Movement’s mission is to “strive for better environmental management, community empowerment, and livelihood improvement using tree-planting as an entry point.” Through this program, more than 51 million trees have been planted throughout Kenya. The growth and impact of this movement since 1977 is astounding.

International Women’s Day is a time to honour and remember exceptional women like Wangari Maathai. Her inspiring story reminds us that being bold starts one step at a time. Stand up for what you believe in. Implement solutions. Empower yourself and those around you. Move forward together, build momentum and change will happen.

Wangari Maathai pictured in Kiriti, Kenya, in 2004. Photograph: Micheline Pelletier/Corbis

“Throughout my life, I have never stopped to strategize about my next steps. I often just keep walking along, through whichever door opens. I have been on a journey and this journey has never stopped. When the journey is acknowledged and sustained by those I work with, they are a source of inspiration, energy and encouragement. They are the reasons I kept walking, and will keep walking, as long as my knees hold out.” ― Wangari Maathai

So today let us celebrate achievements of those who came before us. Let us continue to support, encourage and empower one another, regardless of occupation, status or race. Rejoice in, and value everyday contributions.

Collectively, we can make a difference and continue to improve the world.  #BeBoldForChange

“We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!” ―  Wangari Maathai 


Why not share Wangari Maathai’s story with the younger women in your life through this book?  “Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

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From My Corner of the Prairies – Canada In A Day

September 10, 2016 was Canada In A Day. We were asked to film our lives — whether it be a special occasion or a simple moment. The resulting video compilation will be used to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday next July.

Instead of a film, my story is one of pictures, reflections and simple gratitude for being a Canadian who has the privilege of living and farming on the vast and beautiful prairies.

Life is made great by the million little things that piece together our days and weave into their way into the tapestry of our lives.

Here are the pieces which made #CanadaInADay special to me.

Waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, pouring a cup and enjoying this view.

 

Wandering through my yard, taking time to notice the little things, like the bees enjoying my sunflowers.

Wandering through my yard, taking time to notice the little things, like bees on the towering sunflowers in my garden. 

 

 

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The satisfying job of chopping garden-fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and celery, followed by aroma of simmering salsa wafting through the kitchen .

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Listening to the consistent ‘snapping’ on the jars of the finished product, knowing they are properly sealed and preserved for the months ahead.

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Having the combine come out of the shed to finally resume harvest after a week of rainy weather.

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Enjoying the delicious, fresh, crisp crunch of a B.C. Honey Crisp apple for a snack.

 

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A leisurely afternoon walk with our dog.  She stopped briefly by this freshly cultivated wheat field.  We work the straw into the soil to improve organic matter and soil health. 

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“Pure joy! ” Watching my  trusty side-kick , having a blast running through a wheat field. Here the straw has been baled to be used as bedding for cattle this winter.

 

 

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Appreciating that I can walk for miles on quiet country back roads without seeing a soul.  It doesn’t  necessarily mean my presence isn’t noticed though…The dog and I obviously piqued the interest of the neighbour’s cattle!

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Seeing these hives is a reminder that a delivery of fresh honey will soon arrive at our door.  A fellow farmer keeps bees in the shelter of an old yard-site on our farmland. The bees love the canola and alfalfa we grow, and we love the honey they produce!

 

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Walking to the marsh that borders part of our farm and capturing the beauty of the bulrushes and wildflowers blowing in the wind.  The marsh provides a unique and diverse ecosystem for a wide variety of plants, animals and birds.

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Riding alongside my husband in the combine, enjoying his company and the view as he harvests a field of canola.

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Taste-testing the fresh-made salsa for an appetizer. So good!

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Watching this bald eagle overlook the field we were harvesting. They aren’t usually this close to our yard, but hunting was easy as rodents scurried away as the canola swaths were picked up.

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Being thankful for a south wind that kept the moisture at bay as clouds rolled in later in the day.  Once the grass is wet with dew in the evening, it often makes the crops too ‘tough’ to harvest. Here the combine is unloading canola onto a grain truck so it can be hauled to our farmyard and put in a storage bin.

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Taking the time to savour this view at the end of our farmyard as the sun set. The end my tribute to #CanadaInAday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Collection

If we are fortunate, we have many circles of friendship, support and encouragement in our lives.  My writing group, “Prairie Pens”, is one such circle.  I wrote this in August 2008 as a tribute to them. Subsequently it was published in the introduction to our anthology, “From All Directions” in 2009.  

I’m not sure I would have had the courage and resolve to continue to put to paper without them. They have helped, and continue to help me, develop as a writer.  This craft is ever-evolving as we strive to hone and fine-tune the art of story-telling.  Their motivating and inspiring guidance over the last thirteen years will forever be appreciated. ♥


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Conversation, rippled with laughter, drifts out the screen windows toward the lake. A chickadee calls out from a nearby window branch, joining in the light-hearted banter.
Hummingbirds zip back and forth, drawn to blooms of scarlet geraniums and brilliant-blue salvia in overflowing window boxes. A flash of black and orange…yes, an oriole, heard earlier but seemingly reluctant to make an appearance. Elegant dragonflies float by; the hum of a cicada speaks to the heat of this perfect summer day.

Inside, simple plaques grace the walls – Wiggle Your Toes in the Sand; Life is Good at the Beach; and above the doorway, Home is Where Your Story Begins. How appropriate for this collection. They are comfortable, at ease, as they arrange themselves on rich chocolate-brown wicker topped with floral-green cushions. Soon the visiting ends as stories begin to pour out around the room. Emotions rise and fall; then advice freely flows.

The love of this art of etching words, simple words on paper, binds this group together. Women of all ages, different backgrounds, diverse life stories, offering each other support, encouragement, resolve – to imagine, to create, to write and keep writing.

One woman sits back for a moment, takes it all in – the surroundings, the setting, the vibrant group. Her eyes revert to the plaque Home is Where Your Story Begins. Yes, but it is here, with these women, where the courage is found to put pen to paper, to share words without fear. She glances out at the lake. Mid-day sun bounces off the water, sparkling as beautifully as the dynamic collection of writers surrounding her.