A Meltdown and a Retreat

 

It was my birthday yesterday (yay!) and I am now the grand old age of 35. Woolf Works is also turning the grand old age of 1 in a week or so, so it feels like a particularly poignant time. This year has really been the cliché entrepreneur’s rollercoaster – big highs of accomplishment with big lows of ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into’.

 

This last month or two particularly has been tough on me and in the interest of ‘keeping it real’ I’m going to be honest about what I have been going through – because I know behind all the happy social media photos we all go through crap times.

 

I had a bit of a burn-out last month, though probably no one else knew it. It’s amazing how conditioned we are at keeping up a façade isn’t it?

 

My burn-out was caused by a multitude of factors including:

  •  working on a bunch of different things simultaneously and without enough planning or support
  •  not packing lunches or snacks for work and so either not eating, or eating takeout
  •  no exercise
  •  not enough sleep
  • two kids who were fighting constantly
  • a husband on a on a long overseas trip
  • over-scheduling myself

It ended in a lot of tears.

But, most importantly, it also ended in a great chance to reassess how I was doing things, which was obviously unsustainable.

Once the tears had passed and I realised it was time to make some changes – some of which are short term, some are long term:

 

  •   Taking control of my work by extensive list making, project-based organization, deadlines and identifying what I can delegate, what is urgent and what is just going to have to wait. I’m also exploring automation and creating pathways and forms that require less input for me while getting the right information out.

 

  •  Seeing a nutritionalist to help with food planning, learn about healthy snacks to fuel long days at work, to learn about healthy menu choices when I am eating out, and to get some accountability and track what I am eating.

 

  •   Seeing a therapist. Yes. Here I am, saying it out loud. And you know what, it feels great to have an outlet and to learn skills to deal with unhelpful thought patterns and negativity.

 

  •    Limiting nights out to two per week and learning how to say ‘No’. There are so many great events on, so much I want to be part of and so many people I want to meet! But if I want to be healthy and effective I need to have sleep. I already have a 2 year old keeping me up – I don’t need to be out till midnight all week on top of that.

 

  •    Exercising when I can. Last year I went hardcore – personal trainer three times a week, running two or three times a week. I’m kind of all or nothing with exercise and the last three months it’s been nothing. Now I’m finding an in-between, something manageable and much less stressful. A swim one morning, a 3 km run the next evening, or a yoga class at lunch time.

 

The last, and quite possibly the best thing I’m doing: A weekend retreat.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Singapore, tucked away from the world. I have a pile of books, some writing projects and my running shoes. I plan to sleep and read a lot and I have been looking forward to this for weeks. It was time for me to get off the frantic bullet train of life and have some time out for me.

 

I’m learning that one of the greatest gifts of getting older is getting to know myself better. Learning my triggers for over eating or not eating, learning to give myself structure to stop the overwhelm and learning that ‘good enough’ can be enough – I don’t need to be perfect.

 

Have you taken a personal retreat? How do you cope with overwhelm?

 

We have two retreats coming up with Woolf Works this year – the first is a Writers Retreat, dates to be announced – a long weekend close by to Singapore with lots of time to write, share, have a massage, write some more and make new friends over dinner and drinks in the evening. Interested? We’ll be limiting the numbers so email me at michaela@woolfworks.sg to be on the first invite list.

The second retreat is to Bhutan where we will be working on mindfulness and self leadership. It will be in either November or March. Lots more info available here and you can register your interest here.

Always great to know your thoughts and feedback. Drop me a line anytime (though forgive me if I don’t reply immediately, I’m taking that email pressure of myself too!)

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Herstory: Mary Ellen Mark – Through the Lens of a Talented Photographer

American photographer Mary Ellen Mark’s successful career in the world of advertising photography, portraiture and photojournalism was one to be admired and emulated. She has exhibited in both museums and galleries around the world, was the recipient of numerous awards and fellows, and is proof that photography knows no gender.

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Image courtesy of imgkid.com

Born in Philadelphia on March 20, 1940, Mary Ellen Mark ventured into photography using a Box Brownie camera at nine years old. Mary Ellen obtained her BFA degree in art history and painting in 1962 from the University of Pennsylvania. Two years later, she would receive her Master’s Degree in photojournalism in the same university under the Annenberg School for Communication. A year later, she began her travels to Turkey, Germany, Greece, England, Spain and Italy to photograph, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship.

Capturing Poignant Images of the 60s and 70s

Mary Ellen Mark was also well known for her moving pictures of countless socio-political issues and demonstrations in the late sixties and early seventies. A move to New York (which would also serve as her home until the time of her death) in 1967 saw her documenting images of demonstrations in relation to the women’s liberation movement, the Vietnam War opposition, transvestite culture and more. She gravitated towards the raw and troubled side of photojournalism – far from mainstream society and well into significant social issues.

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Mary Ellen Mark, 1975 – Image courtesy of flickriver.com

Through her photography, she shone the spotlight on issues such as prostitution, homelessness, drug addiction, mental illness and loneliness, among others. Her aim in focusing on such subjects was to show their way of living to those who were in the best position to reach out or at the very least acknowledge that they exist.

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This prostitute is a transvestite; Falkland Road, Bombay, India – 1978 – Image courtesy of http://www.maryellenmark.com/

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Ward 81, Oregon State Hospital, Salem, Oregon, 1976 – Image courtesy of http://www.maryellenmark.com/

From Photos to Film

Some of her work was also translated into film; her “Street Kids” project eventually turned into the movie Streetwise. In the seventies and onwards, she dabbled into unit photography. She was involved in more than a hundred known films such as Alice’s Restaurant (1969), Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Apocalypse Now (1979), to name a few. In the early nineties, Mary Ellen Mark also became an associate producer, still photographer and a writer for the film American Heart, which starred Edward Furlong and Jeff Bridges and was directed by Martin Bell, her husband.

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In a settlement camp near New Delhi, one of the daughters of Waris (monkey trainers) plays with the animals that provide the family’s living and exist almost as members of the family. (1981) – Image courtesy of http://www.maryellenmark.com/

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“Rat” and Mike with a gun, Seattle, Washington, 1983 – Image courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/

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The Damm (homeless) family in their car, Los Angeles, California, 1987 – Image courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/

Mary Ellen Mark also went on to publish a total of 17 photography books, contribute to popular publications such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Life and The New Yorker, and even became a guest juror for entries submitted to The Center for Fine Art Photography.

It was a very busy and full life filled with active involvement in the world of photography, film and the media for someone like Mary Ellen Mark. Her powerful and moving photographs serve as an example of brilliant photography that not only captures beautiful subjects but also brings to the forefront issues that continue to plague our society today. On May 25, 2015, she passed away due to myelodysplastic syndrome at the age of 75 in her hometown of Manhattan.

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Image courtesy of imgbuddy.com

For more of her renowned works, please visit https://www.pinterest.com/source/maryellenmark.com/

 

Herstory: Arundhati Roy, a True Literary Activist

Many literary enthusiasts will have encountered Arundhati Roy, and her Man Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things. But there is more to Roy than just her writing – she is also an actress, and activist, an intellectual, a political commentator, and a powerful and vocal female role model across South Asia and the world.

Arundhati Roy was born to a tea plantation manager father and a women’s rights activist mother on November 24, 1961 in Meghalaya, India. Her parents separated in her toddlerhood and a few years after this separation, her mother opened a school in Kerala where she lived with her brother and maternal grandmother as well. Roy left Kerala as a teenager to live in a small hut and sold empty bottles for a living but eventually moved on to study architecture and graduated from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi.

Her post-school life saw her holding a position with the Delhi-based National Institute of Urban Affairs. In the midst of her busy work life, she met Pradip Krishen, a filmmaker, who would soon become her husband. They briefly collaborated in some films (one of which, the award-winning, Massey Sahib) before Pradip ended up working various jobs after feeling disillusioned by the film world. This would cause a tension in their relationship, and the two eventually split up.

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Roy as the leading actress in the movie Massey Sahib (1985), image courtesy of http://www.nytimes.com/

Roy’s short-lived relationship with her ex-husband most likely sparked her step into the film industry. She wrote screenplays based on notable experiences in her life, and sometimes acted as well. Her skill was noticed by many, as evidenced by her winning the National Film Award for Best Screenplay in the year 1988.

In 1997 her novel The God of Small Things was published. It is semi-autobiographical, based on childhood experiences and the novel was the one work that allowed her to rise to fame on an international scale. Prizes and praises included The Booker Prize for Fiction (1997), a listing in the New York Times’ Notable Books of the Year (1997), sitting on the fourth position of the New York Times Bestsellers list (Independent Fiction category), stellar reviews in American and Canadian broadsheets, being noted by TIME magazine as one of the five best books of 1997, and more. It guaranteed her financial freedom also.

Of course, not everyone sung praises for Roy’s work. It was not received well in the United Kingdom, with literary judges and publications called her work atrocious. In India, The God of Small Things was vehemently criticized by many, especially Kerala’s Chief Minister at the time, Mr. E.K Nayanar, who accused it of being ‘anti-Communist venom’ and obscene.

Still, she continued with her written work, this time for films and television serials. She sought opportunities to contribute and collaborate on publications that she found to be within her line of work and interest.

After her best-selling novel, Roy spent a lot of time on her work with political activism. She became an anti-globalization spokesperson and a neo-imperialism critic. She spoke out a lot about her anti-American views, most especially about their foreign policy and in recent years about the war in Afghanistan, with a personal analysis of everything being rooted to American capitalism. She questioned and opposed Indian policies that were in favor of both industrialization and the use of nuclear weaponry, and wrote documents that support these causes and beliefs. She strongly criticized Israel in 2006 for the Lebanon War, calling the event an act of state terror and many more.

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Image courtesy of http://www.veethi.com/

In 2002, she donated the money she received from her Booker prize and other royalties so as to fund a project that would address the concerns of the 500,000 people affected by the controversial Narmada dam project. For this cause, she also appeared in a documentary. As a result, she was criticized by members of the Congress and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat and was served a legal notice for contempt. Despite making an intelligent statement on her part, the court still ended up sentencing her to one day’s imprisonment as well as being fined Rs. 2500 for her “crime”.

In 2008, Roy announced her support for Kashmir’s independence from India, in light of the massive demonstrations in that same year that also advocated for the same cause. Unsurprisingly, she was criticized by the INC (Indian National Congress), the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), and other public and private political groups that called on her to withdraw her statement, which they deemed to be “irresponsible” and not at all aligned with historical facts and evidences.

For her tireless work in putting these and more issues to light, Roy won even more awards for her work in political and social activism. These include: The Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation (2002), A Woman of Peace special recognition in the Global Exchange Human Rights Awards (2003), The Sydney Peace Prize (2004), The Sahitya Akademi Award for her essays that touched on contemporary issues (2006) – though she declined to accept it as a form of protest for the local government’s inkling towards US-influenced economic neo-liberalization and militarization – The Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Writing (2011), and was recently featured in the 2014 list of 100 most influential people in the world by Time 100.

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Image courtesy of http://www.hourdose.com/

With notable accolades and the ability to influence people to work for the greater good, Arundhati Roy is indeed a woman who selflessly uses her talents – writing and the gift of speech – to the hilt, despite threat of opposition, so that those who are truly in need of help or attention may receive it.

 

Other Resources about Arundhati Roy

http://www.weroy.org/arundhati.shtml
http://www.haverford.edu/engl/engl277b/Contexts/Arundhati_Roy.htm
http://www.iloveindia.com/indian-heroes/arundhati-roy.html

Power-Packed Breakfasts to POWER through your working day

Guest Post by Karen Aroney (ANutr, ASN)

Karen is holding a talk on Motherhood and Nutrition at Woolf Works on the 11th March at 10am. More info and tickets details available here.

 

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Even if you are not a breakfast eater, ensuring you have even a small, balanced meal in your stomach before you head out for work is beneficial for the following reasons:

Brain Power

The brain requires between 100–150 g of glucose (blood sugar) daily. Once we wake up from our sleep are cells are in ‘fasting’ mode, waiting for the next hit of glucose (known as carbohydrate). If we don’t fuel ourselves with a nutritious breakfast of protein and carbohydrate, then what how do we expect to perform in that meeting? that presentation? Fuel for your brain is essential for high performance.

Weight Control

Lower rates of obesity have been found for people who ate breakfast regularly, versus those that skipped breakfast, partly due to breakfast eaters not over-consuming high energy snacks or meals at the later part of the day (where you are less likely to expend most of your energy)(1). Moreover, people who skipped breakfast also have a higher affinity for high-calorie foods and again over-eating with these foods, than people who eat a regular breakfast(2). Worth considering next time you reach for the ‘hidden chocolate’ in the desk draw or find yourself in front of the vending machine!

Increased Energy and Better Quality of Life

Research indicates that there is a direct effect of morning eating patterns on physical activity levels throughout the day, with people who ate breakfast displaying higher energy and overall physical activity levels(3). Further studies have found that breakfast eaters (versus those that skipped breakfast), had a more positive score for overall quality of life, vitality, social functioning , and emotional and mental health(1).

The easiest and tastiest way to enjoy a stress-free POWER-PACKED nutritious breakfast is to literally jar it! Here are 2 recipes to get you started:

Blueberry Coconut Overnight Oats

Pour 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, and 1 cup of coconut milk into a mason jar and stir to combine. Add 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries and mash them in the pudding for a thicker consistency or you may leave the blueberries whole for a topping. Add honey to sweeten. Store in fridge overnight. Then before serving, top with shredded coconut, almonds and pumpkin seeds!

Almond Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats pure2

Pour 1/2 cup gluten free steel cut oats (use rolled oats for a smoother oatmeal), 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 tsp flaxseed, 2 tsp cacao powder , 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 chopped medjool date or 2 tsp maple syrup, 1/2 cup almond milk. Throw everything in a mason jar, mix well and store in the fridge overnight to eat. If you like yours thinner, just add a bit more milk.

(Recipe credit: www.nutritionstripped.com, www.mywholefoodlife.com)

All these factors combined make you more POWERFUL and PRODUCTIVE, so start the day on the right track and make it happen!

References:

  1. Huang CJ, Hu HT, Fan YC, Liao YM, Tsai PS. Associations of breakfast skipping with obesity and health-related quality of life: evidence from a national survey in Taiwan. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Apr;34(4):720-5. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.285. Epub 2010 Jan 12.
  2. Farshchi HR, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Deleterious effects of omitting breakfast on insulin sensitivity and fasting lipid profiles in healthy lean women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):388-96.
  3. Betts JA1, Richardson JD1, Chowdhury EA1, Holman GD1, Tsintzas K1, Thompson D1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Aug;100(2):539-47. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.083402. Epub 2014 Jun 4. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults.

pure3PureVitality Nutrition Concepts Pte Ltd is run by Karen, an accredited Nutritionist (ANutr, ASN) and Wellness Coach. She is also mum of twins, passionate about travel, sport, family health, and food!

PureVitality Nutrition Services provide nutritional advice and awareness through individual, child, family, and corporate coaching programs, and health talks to maximize health and well being. The key is to effectively empower individuals to develop healthy eating habits that support their goals in all areas of health, family planning and fitness for life. We help individuals and families create a healthy balance between food and life. Our mantra – “Welcome to Today. Another day, Another chance. Feel free to CHANGE!”

 

 

Herstory: Constance Singam, Mother of Singapore’s Civil Society

Though her journey has been full of trepidation, Constance Singam has never allowed fear to stop her from correcting what she believes is wrong in her country. She is a true epitome of patriotism, freedom and bravery in today’s fast-paced and tangled world.

Constance Signam

Image courtesy of http://news.asiaone.com/

She is known regionally and globally as a brilliant author and a highly respected advocate for Singapore’s civil society. She has spent the last twenty-five years leading a variety of women’s organizations, co-founding various civil society groups, penning columns in national publications and co-editing several books. Through these acts, she has sought to bridge the widening gap between intellectual and ethical spheres as a way of solving the problems she continues to see in her country.

She was born in Singapore as Constance D’Cruz in 1936. Her father worked as a senior architectural draughtsman while her mother tended to their home as a homemaker. When she was just five years old, she left Singapore with her mother for Kerala, India, in order to get to know her grandparents. While the trip was intended to be a short one, it extended up to 1948 due to the occupation of Singapore and the Japanese invasion.

Singham’s foray into the world of activism began in 1978 when her journalist husband N.T.R. Singam died because of heart attack complications, stemming from a cardiologist’s bad judgment. She was 24 years old when she had married Singam, and was 42 at the time of his death. A single act on her part, which was to write a letter, A Rest in Hospital Became a Nightmare to The Straits Times regarding patient care standard in private hospitals, got the ball rolling in terms of changes in the treatment of the marginalized. From then on, she would write more than a hundred letters to the press about the issues that concerned her and civil society.

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A writer, social activist, teacher, restaurateur and blogger – Image courtesy of https://s.yimg.com

The death of Constance’s husband also prompted her to engage in more liberating experiences, brought about by deeper questions of her personal identity, the future and the notion of loneliness. Her first step in attempting to answer such questions was to get a driver’s license, which was already a big deal for her given that it was something her husband did not approve of when he was still alive. Singam notes that the first day she drove alone was the most liberating experience of her life.

Encouraged and emboldened, with dreams of becoming a writer, her next decision was to go to Melbourne for her honors degree in Literature at the Monash University. Being 46 years old at that time did not prove to be a barrier to completing her first ever degree, which she did with flying colors. Her education also did not stop there, as she was able to complete her Master’s degree from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, at the age of 60. She also dabbled in the educational field by working as a part-time lecturer at the National Institute of Education, until she was 67.

Her educational pursuits also lead her to the Singapore women’s gender equality group, AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) and tackled issues like domestic violence against women and Indian students’ underperformance in schools. With her newfound passion for intellectual work, Singam worked actively for solutions to problems that dehumanize the marginalized sector of society.

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Constance Singam, as one of the judges at Singapore Advocacy Awards – Image courtesy of http://bukitbrown.com/

Her personal experiences with being marginalized were also a reason why this kind of work was important to her. Upon her return to Singapore, she was advised to announce that she was Indian so she would not be attacked under the assumption that she was Eurasian. This was during the 50s, and the time of the Maria Hertogh riots. In her later years, the experience of being marginalized stemmed from her being a widow, an Indian and a woman.

Her work as a civil society activist brought about notable changes in the lives of many through political lobbying. The government responded by forming the SIDA (Singapore Indian Development Association) to address the community’s socio-economic and educational issues. Ten years of hard lobbying on domestic violence against women finally resulted in legal protection being given to victims.

Her provocative journal published in 2013, Where I Was: A Memoir from the Margins has been read by thousands and shows the other side of Singapore’s glowing and thriving face. She recounts her life and the accompanying experiences of being marginalized in many ways. It paints a glaring picture of societal challenges people like her face, due to political and cultural obstacles. Despite being autobiographical, it also successfully tells the tale of others through her personal accounts of important historical events.

She discovered that through her writing she was able to make society take notice of issues that are of concern to her, such as the marginalized place of women; being a “poor cousin” to Singaporeans because she was Indian; and the struggles and challenges that come with being poor in a first world country. She continued to wield this weapon many times, as well as to speak in public and private discourses in Singapore and abroad.

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At her book launch at The Arts House on May 24, 2013 – Image courtesy of http://www.straitstimes.com/

Now in her late seventies, Constance Singam is busier than ever, performing multiple roles she probably did not dream of doing when she was in her twenties. She continues her work as a social activist, a teacher and a writer, and has become a restaurateur and an active blogger as well. Her presence on the Internet is a commendable effort to engage the global community and make them aware of the issues that civil society faces today.

Despite growing up in a patriarchal, South Indian household and society, she found in herself a stronger voice that spoke and achieved results for many. Yes, Constance Singam might have lost a husband and would have settled in a traditional married life. But with passion and with her radical ideals, she has become a role model and inspiration for thousands of individuals – most especially those who share in her experience of being marginalized in different ways.

 

To read more about Constance Singam, check her blog Living Life @ 70.

 

Other links about Constance Singram:

http://theindependent.sg/blog/2013/07/11/mother-of-singapores-civil-society/
http://news.asiaone.com/print/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20130526-425171.html
http://kitaab.org/2013/08/25/constance-singam-i-think-it-is-important-that-more-of-us-write/
http://oddznns.com/2013/11/16/a-singaporean-identity-constance-singam-the-epitome-of-true-grit/

 

 

Herstory: Wangari Maathai, An Advocate of Democracy, Peace and the Environment

Political activist and environmentalist Wangari Maathai is an inspiring woman with an incredible dedication to all the worthy things: learning, family, her country and our planet.

Wangari-Maathai-by-Martin-Rowe

Image courtesy of takingrootfilm.com

Maathai was born in Kenya on April 1, 1940 to a Kikuyu (ethnic group) family. She had an excellent Catholic education, finishing top of her class, and was selected to be part on an educational program in the US in 1960.

Maathai received her B.S. Biology with a Minor in Chemistry degree in 1964 and completed a Master’s by 1966. After graduation she landed a research assistant position to a Zoology professor back home, at the University College of Nairobi.

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Young Maathi, image courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Maathai returned to Kenya only to find out that the position offered to her was given to another person, most likely due to tribal and gender bias. After two months of job searching she was offered another research assistant position at the University College of Nairobi’s Department of Veterinary Anatomy (School of Veterinary Medicine).

These were busy and productive times for Maathai: she met her future husband Mwangi Mathai, was involved in opening a general store where her sisters then worked, and she travelled to Germany to pursue a doctorate degree. Upon her return to Nairobi in 1969, she became an assistant lecturer at the University College of Nairobi, was married and became pregnant with their first child. Her husband ran for a Parliament seat but lost.

At this time, the founder of the program that allowed her to study abroad was assassinated and this event prompted President Kenyatta to end Kenya’s multi-party democracy. Her eldest son Waweru was born soon after this.

Maathai became the very first doctorate degree holder among Eastern African women in 1971 with a degree in veterinary anatomy, obtained from the University College of Nairobi. In the same year, her daughter Wanjira was also born. A third child, Muta, followed in 1974.

Apart from being a lecturer at the University, Maathai also actively campaigned for women to have equal benefits in the same school, with many of her demands seeing successful results after negotiations. She was also involved in many civic and sociopolitical organizations such as the Kenya Red Cross (serving as director in 1973), the Kenya Association of University Women (member), the Environment Liaison Center (eventually became the board chairman), and the National Council of Women of Kenya (member). Through her involvement in these associations, she came to see that much of Kenya’s problems were deeply rooted to environmental degradation.

With her husband finally winning a seat in Parliament in 1974, she was able to push for more environmental initiatives that resonated his stance of solving the unemployment problem. Through her work, she was even able to attend the first UN conference about human settlements in June 1976. At the conference, her proposal, the tree-planting “Green Belt Movement”, was born.

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January 1983 – The Voluntary Fund for the UN Decade for Women assisted the Green Belt Movement, image courtesy of http://www.theguardian.com/

Maathai separated from her husband in 1977, and he filed a divorce in 1979, claiming that she was too strong-minded and he was not able to control her. Accusations were filed later on, with him calling her “cruel” and accused her of adultery. Unfortunately, the judge ruled in his favor. Maathai even spent a few days in jail after a remark she had made about the judge being incompetent. All this resulted in her adding an extra ‘a’ to her surname to differentiate from Mathai, who had demanded she stop using his. Financial problems also arose because of the divorce, and she was left with no choice but to have her children live with her ex-husband as she was unable to bring them with her due to the nature of her work.

More problems arose in the sphere of work and politics, with Maathai losing several elections for the chairman position of the National Council of Women of Kenya because of the meddling of Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi. By the time she was finally elected chairman, support was withdrawn from the NCWK until it became nearly bankrupt. Still, she served as chairman until her retirement in 1987. She also tried to run for Parliament but more problems resulted in her being disqualified. As she had to resign from her job to run, she found herself evicted and unable to live in the university housing because she no longer worked at the university.

The later years showed her concentration on the Green Belt Movement, which partnered with international organizations. This resulted in good funding, and overall the Green Belt Movement was able to plant more than 30 million trees as well as provided nearly 30,000 women with decent livelihood. From there, she continued to do more active work in the sphere of environmental protection and women’s rights as her network grew to even greater international heights. Clashes with the government were many, with Maathai beaten and bloodied by government cohorts, an assassination list that included her name, and unjust jailing. She underwent a hunger strike after this, and further earned the ire of the President, who had forcibly removed her from the site (among others). The international community recognized Maathai and she received the Goldman Environmental prize (1991), and the Hunger Project’s Africa Prize for Leadership in London.

Kenya experienced a series of ethnic clashes in 1992, which prompted Maathai to even further push for democracy and peace in elections. With the government after her, she resorted to hiding from her detractors. She again continued to receive many awards citing the good she has done in the name of the environment and humanity. In the early 2000s, Maathai worked as a faculty member at Yale University, expanding on her Green Belt Movement project. Her return to Kenya in 2002 saw her winning a seat at Parliament under the National Rainbow Coalition. Because of her steadfast commitment and astounding work for the environment, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for contributing to “sustainable development, democracy, and peace”.

Her later life saw the following achievements: becoming the president of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of Africa (2005), a goodwill ambassador for the protection of the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem (2005), a flag bearer at the Winter Olympics (2006), an honorary doctorate from Connecticut College (2006), founder of the Nobel Women’s Initiative (2006), and being named as the first peace hero by PeaceByPeace.com (2009). She also served on the Association of European Parliaments with Africa’s Eminent Advisory Board until her death from ovarian cancer on September 25, 2011.

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Maathi receives a trophy awarded to her by the Kenya national human rights commission for her contribution towards humanity, image courtesy of DEMOSH of flickr.com

For all her efforts in saving the environment as well as advocating for peace and democracy, Wangari Maathai is indeed deserving of the overwhelming amount of accolades and awards she has received throughout her time as well as posthumously. Her efforts will be felt by later generations who will hopefully continue her legacy in caring for the earth and working for harmony among people.

 

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wangari_Maathai

http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai/biography

http://www.biography.com/people/wangari-maathai-13704918#green-belt-movement

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/world/africa/wangari-maathai-nobel-peace-prize-laureate-dies-at-71.html?_r=0