How healing the earth empowered thousands of women

When I first heard of the Green Belt Movement I wanted to find out more.

I did and felt compelled to share it here.

It's a wonderful story about the connection between nature and women and how that connection can heal and transform.

It's also a story that shows how caring, courage and love can change a nation.

Back in the 1970s rural Kenya was struggling with environmental degradation, deforestation and lack of food. These struggles were a result of Kenyan leaders who were not working for the common good. They were making decisions that were destroying the country's natural resources.  

African women in rural Kenya were bearing the burden of the destruction.

They had to walk farther to find fuel for their cook fires. Clean water was becoming scarce. The normally nutrient rich soil for their crops was eroding. And their children were becoming sick due to malnourishment. Everyday it was a struggle to feed and take care of their families.  

Professor Wangari Maathai, www.mitotografia.comOne very courageous African woman, a professor named Wangari Maathai, connected the nation's environmental degradation to the everyday struggles of women living in rural Kenya.     

Working under the National Council of Women in Kenya, which was an organization designed to respond to the needs of rural African women, Professor Maathai came up with a solution.

It was simple and perfect. "Why not plant trees? Let's plant trees."

This was the beginning of the Green Belt Movement

Professor Maathai founded a movement that empowered thousands of women in rural Kenya to heal the devastated land. Not only did planting trees restore the land, the movement helped heal these caring, hardworking woman who had been disempowered by the unethical practices. (She later went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.)

They came together to learn and teach each other how to plant the trees. They began to believe in and draw strength from their traditional values once again.

And, their movement grew to include their educated children from the universities helping them to organize around other common issues.  

According to an article published in Public Health Today, March 2012, today 70 percent of the Kenya population lives in rural areas and the Green Belt Movement has helped tens of thousands of rural African women lift themselves out of poverty. 

The movement has grown to more than 4,000 community groups, which have planted more than 47 million trees. And today it embraces much more than planting trees. Basic rights, climate change, and carbon rights are among its mighty causes. 

Read more about the history of Professor Wangai Maathai and The Green Belt Movement.