Being the best is not important, doing the best is what matters

Personality of the week: Wanjira Mathai, Green Belt Movement chair. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • I am currently working on some of the most exciting legacy projects concerning my mother, the late Wangari Maathai.
  • I am especially proud of the work the Wangari Maathai Foundation has started, inspiring the next generation of leaders, the next Wangari Maathai’s of our country.

Describe yourself in three words.

Committed.

Funny. Caring. Loving

           

Give us some of highlights in your career?

I am currently working on some of the most exciting legacy projects concerning my mother, the late Wangari Maathai. I am especially proud of the work the Wangari Maathai Foundation has started, inspiring the next generation of leaders, the next Wangari Maathai’s of our country. We admired her persistence, courage and selflessness as she worked for the common good.  The work of the Green Belt Movement continues to restore degraded landscapes, protect open green spaces and empower communities to protect their environment. On a daily basis, I am director at the Partnerships for Women Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER)  Hub, a project that addresses energy, poverty and climatic change by promoting the central role that women must play in clean energy entrepreneurship. Women must play a central role in renewable energy entrepreneurship,

 

What inspires you?

The capacity to make a difference. I was greatly inspired by my mother and her commitment to social justice and environmental conservation. I was privileged to have worked with her for 12 years and learnt a lot from her.  

 

Did you think you would be where you are now, four years ago?

No. I have actually grown into my current roles. I have gotten to a point in life where I am allowing things to happen. I enjoy entering new spaces and just letting the skills and passion I have to guide me. So, I am growing and enjoying myself at the same time.

If you were to turn back the hands of time, what would you do differently?

I would learn more local languages from our vastly diverse and beautiful country

 

How are you keeping Prof Wangari Maathai legacy alive?

Her legacy is very much alive in the Green Belt Movement and the wPOWER Hub. The Wangari Maathai Institute of the University of Nairobi — her legacy to higher education — gives young people the opportunity to learn experientially.                      

 

Why is it important today to think green and to conserve the environment?

One of the greatest challenges of our time is climatic change and its impacts. We cannot watch as failed rains and erratic weather patterns destroy our food security. Our electricity and energy reserves rely on natural resources, so we must protect water towers and forests. Today, 90 per cent of rural Kenya depends on firewood for cooking and heating. We must find sustainable alternatives to these.

 

What is the one mistake you regret making in your youth?

Not any that I remember. 

 

Would you say that you utilised your youth well?

Yes.  I hope so.

 

What do you owe your success to?

A lot of situations and people. Inspiration from my mother, hard work, and being at the right place and prepared for the opportunities I encountered. I am inspired by the work that we do because it is relevant and responsive to the needs of our country.

 

What do you consider your greatest achievement so far in your career?

I consider myself a strong advocate for justice, green energy, and gender equality.

 

What is your advice to young people interested in a career in environment?

Go for it! The environment has got so many perspectives. Just be open-minded. You cannot go wrong because the environment will always be an important part of the equation.

 

Your education background?

I studied at State House Girls’ High School, then went to college in New York at William Smith College where I studied Biology (Bsc), then my Masters in Public Health (MPH) and Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Whom do you look up to as your mentor?

I have a few sister friends whose advice and candor guides me. I also count on women and men of my generation who share the lessons in their journeys. But, my mother remains my greatest inspiration.

 

What have you learnt about money?

Growing up, I was always taught that money is not everything. And that is true. There are a lot of wealthy people who are miserable because they do not have a sense of purpose in their lives. 

 

Car or house. Which one came first for you, and why?

A house. I can happily walk around on my two feet, but I cannot live outside.

 

Say something profound to a young woman reading this…

Go ahead and pursue your dreams – that business idea, that plan you have in the back of your mind. Just go for it. What matters is the amount of effort that you put in. Be patient, persistent and committed.

 

How do you unwind?

I enjoy eating out with friends. But I treasure any time I spend at home just relaxing with my family. I spend so much time working and when I have time to just relax, I cherish that.

 

Which book are you currently reading?

We have a book club in our Neighbourhood and every couple of months we pick a book and for the club. We are currently reading London-Cape Town– Joburg by Zukiswa Wanner.

 

- By Millicent Mwololo

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