Remembering Nobel Prize Winner Wangari Maathai

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Listen to two previous Talk of the Nation interviews with Wangari Maathai.

Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, died of cancer Sunday at the age of 71. Maathai inspired a generation of women and founded Kenya's Green Belt Movement, which targets deforestation, poverty and the status of women.

NEAL CONAN, host: Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, died yesterday at the age of 71. After a long struggle with cancer, she died at a hospital in Nairobi. After leaving her home in rural Kenya to study in America, she returned to serve in government and in parliament. She's perhaps best known as the founder of Kenya's Green Belt Movement, which targets deforestation, poverty and the status of women. She was kind enough to join us a couple of times on this program, most recently in 2009 to discuss her book, "The Challenge for Africa."


WANGARI MAATHAI: We cannot change history, but we can manage what we have. And one way is to understand that as diverse as we are in the superficial state - which I call the micro-nation - it's up to us now to negotiate with each other as politicians to understand how we can move these micro-nationalities as a united people, and not to use these micro-nationalities as blocks with which we play politics. And we see that time and time again, people wanting to get in power and using their micro-nationality as an excuse, and especially if that micro-nationality has a huge number. This is really failure of the African leadership, and I'm urging that it is us, the Africans, who have to deal with that and persuade our people to work together so that we can move forward instead of engaging in petty wars that take us nowhere.

CONAN: Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai, who died yesterday at the age of 71. If you'd like, you can hear more of our conversations with her on our website. Go to and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

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