Wangari Maathai: from jail to parliament.
What a difference a year makes! On International Women's Day in 2001, Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya's Green Belt Movement and the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in East and Central Africa, woke up in jail (see "Africa's Green Belt," Currents, July/August 2002), charged with planting trees. Just a year and a half later, Kenya held its first fair election in decades. Maathai was voted into Parliament with a large majority. She was then appointed by Kenya's new president, Mwai Kibaki, as assistant minister for environment, natural resources and wildlife. For the inauguration, Maathai's police escort included officers who had earlier arrested her. Maathai expresses frustration with the slow bureaucratic pace. "People want action," she says. "They don't want to hear that I'm sitting there when the forests are disappearing." But, she adds, "We have opportunities to make change happen." CONTACT: Green Belt Movement, (254)2-573057, www.greenbeltmove ment.org.