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I miss my mother’s laughter- Wangari Maathai’s daughter Wanjira

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An apple, they say, never falls far away from the tree and for Wanjira Mathai, that metaphor has been true in a literal sense. The daughter of renowned environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner the late Wangari Maathai finds solace in the tranquillity of Karura, a forest that saw her mother’s blood spilt by overzealous security agents in a bid to force her to abandon her crusade to save it from grabbers.

On April 1, Wangari Maathai would have turned 80. Wanjira thinks her mother would have been overjoyed to learn that the forest has quickly become a focal point for Nairobi residents.

“I always think about Karura as one of those places where you pinch yourself and think ‘it’s here.’ This is where, walk, relax and reflect,” Wanjira says. “My mother always hoped that her grandchildren would enjoy Karura Forest.” They do.

As a resident of the world, Wangari Maathai was feted for highlighting environmental issues that pricked the conscience of her global audience.

Kings, queens and presidents wanted to pose for photos with her. Parks and gardens in the developed world were named after her. But to Wanjira and her siblings, Wangari was simply their mother.

Wangari died in 2011 and the world mourned a woman who was willing to shed blood to save the environment. Catchy labels were pinned on her and for good reasons. Yet, her death was a personal loss to her family. Each one had to retreat to some private space and relive the cherished moments they shared.

I miss her laugh

“There is so much I miss about my mother,” says Wanjira. “So to pick one thing right now, I would say her laugh. I miss the times we would laugh out loud until tears streamed down our faces.”

To the world, Wangari seemed superhuman and the question of what it was like living with such an icon intrigues Wanjira every so often.

“Living with my mother just seemed normal. Growing up, I always thought everyone’s mum must be as hard-working and committed as mine. She cared for us, ensured we had a happy childhood, and corrected us when necessary. I see life through her lens as my mother,” she says.

As expected, that strict upbringing and the constant shadowing of her mother rubbed off on Wanjira. She was just a small girl when her mother brought together some women into planting trees, the baby steps that gave birth to the Green Belt Movement in 1977.

The work gained global traction leading to Wangari Maathai being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. But unlike many organisations that slow down after the death of their founders, the Green Belt Movement is still on the fast lane, thanks to the efforts of people like Wanjira.

The Wangari Maathai Foundation seeks to push the envelope by inspiring courageous and responsible leadership in Kenya. Inspired by the rich legacy of Wangari Maathai, the foundation’s work is driven by what is termed as the “Power of One” – a transformative agenda that aims to nurture a culture of integrity, purpose, and personal leadership among children and youth.

The movement partners with schools across Kenya to incorporate experiential youth programmes that build character and integrate social-emotional learning in the country. Wanjira cannot afford to drop the ball. With all eyes on her, this may seem like a Herculean task, especially when people compare her accomplishments with those of her mother. But Wanjira has never tried to fill her mother’s shoes.

Wanjira Maathai. Photo: Courtesy.

“I do not feel like I am filling my mother’s shoes.  A lot of the work that I have done in support of my mother’s legacy is out of a deep love and gratitude for what she meant to me,” she says. That love and gratitude was borne out of working closely with her mother for almost 12 years.

“Many people don’t have a chance to have that kind of precious time with their parents. I consider it a gift that I was able to enjoy her company. I never compare myself to her. I am not living in her shadow but basking in her light,” she says.

Herculean task or not, Wanjira, who also wears the hat of the vice president and regional director for Africa at the World Resource Institute is prepared to walk the talk, taking stock of what has worked and what has not in matters environment since her mother passed away.

The environment, she says, has in some ways improved, and in others deteriorated. Improved because protections for the environment that Kenyans could only have dreamed of are now enshrined in our constitution, including a right to a clean and green environment.

“My mother was very proud of that achievement. In the height of her struggle to save Uhuru Park and Karura Forest, their court case was struck out for lack of a locus standi (they did not have the right to speak for the park and the forest).  Today we do,” she says.

The country may have more forest cover than when her mother was assistant Minister for Environment, but Kenya needs a minimum forest cover of 10 per cent, in addition to a commitment made to the Africa Restoration initiative to restore 5.1 million hectares of land by 2030. Wangari’s work was not done.

Were her mother to be alive, Wanjira has no doubts she would have continued to champion environmental causes, issues that have become more central today than they were in her mother’s time.

When her mother won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, Wanjira says, people asked what the environment had to do with peace. “Nobody is asking that question today. We are talking about how important it is to have a healthy environment and protect the integrity of the natural world.”

What would she fight for today?

Among the issues that Wanjira feels would have occupied her mother today is the never-ending feud over the Mau. Wanjira says her mother was always very clear on the Mau and saw it from a different perspective.

She knew that the Mau supports so much life and biodiversity. “If the Mau is really important to us, if it is central and critical, then we should do anything to protect it,” her mother would say.

Thankfully, Wanjira says we have many young climate champions protecting the environment. Some are supported by the Wangari Maathai Scholarship through The Rockefeller Foundation and the Green Belt Movement. Others are nurtured by The Hummingbird Leadership project, a programme for building character and personal leadership skills in schools.

The late Wangari Maathai carries a bucket of water on to water trees at Karura Fores. Photo: Courtesy.

“To meet these young people is to meet the future Wangari Maathais! They are fantastic, brilliant, and committed. We will be okay if they continue.”

Such future Wangari Maathais include Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish environmental activist. Wanjira has not met Greta and is not sure if she knows about Wangari Maathai but “I am inspired by the fact that she is so much like my mother – courageous, focused, committed and persistent.”

Wangari Maathai’s “little thing” was to plant trees. Wanjira’s little thing is to inspire the next generation of young leaders to believe in their capacity to change their world. With her mother’s legacy, she hopes to make the planet a hospitable place for all children, and inspired by the ‘Power of One’ – that each of us can be a potent agent of change.

By SDE


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Carpenter hopes payday in sight in 27-year fight over presidential seats

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For the past 27 years, Solomon Njoroge Kiore has battled with the government over a debt that was initially Sh195 million but has now ballooned to more than Sh500 million in an unpaid bill for presidential furniture he delivered.

Tomorrow (Monday), Mr Kiore will go to the High Court in Milimani hoping that the end is in sight as he is supposed to get a hearing date for a case that has had many twists and turns.

In 1992, Mr Kiore, the proprietor of Furncon, a furniture company, won a government tender to supply presidential furniture but down the line, the deal went sour when the military officials returned the chairs a year after President Daniel arap Moi had used them — allegedly without payment.

The chairs had been acquired through the Ministry of Defence and approved by State House, according to court documents.

The government has denied failing to make the payment and he went to court to seek redress in 2007.

Although Mr Moi used the chairs for a year, Furncon says the military returned them to his workshop.

With the matter dragging through the courts for years, in February 2018, a decision was reached to settle out of court.

But the parties could not agree on the amount to be paid, with the businessman citing lack of goodwill on the side of the state.

Sh527 million

That year, Mr Kiore was seeking Sh527 million, being the price, court costs and storage charges.

He told the court he did not receive any invitation to negotiate a settlement.

Then last year, Symon Yator Cheberek, a military colonel, took over the case after Attorney General Kihara Kariuki appointed him to represent the state in all civil matters in which the Ministry of Defence is a party.

High Court judge Joseph Sergon allowed Col Cheberek to act for the state, but Mr Kiore objected this saying allowing a military officer to take up the matter was tantamount to court-martialling him.

“There can never be a situation where a civilian can be in court one on one with a distinctive disciplined and uniformed force,” he stated in an affidavit on March 25, 2019.

Col Cheberek said he is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and the Attorney General was in order to appoint him.

Mr Kiore wants Justice Sergon to recuse himself from hearing the matter, alleging bias and citing a 2017 ruling by Justice Philip Mwongo barring the military from taking over the case.

Justice Sergon has declined the recusal plea, saying the claims of bias could not be proved.

 Now, Mr Kiore says his business has died, as he can no longer use the premises where he has kept the chair as it is an instrument of power.

“It was used by a President for a year. It is treasured and therefore no one is supposed to touch it. My business has suffered immensely because of this seat,” he says in his court documents.

In a letter dated May 10, 2001, the Attorney General informed Mr Kiore that the Department of Defence had extended a without-prejudice offer purely out of honour and respect for presidential instruments.

“However, having realised that your claims include other items worth millions of shillings reflective of your other financial issues not related to the chair in question, it has not been possible to formally make the offer to you,” states the letter signed by V Onyango, a deputy litigation officer at the State Law Office.

Admission of liability

The offer, the officer states, is not the government’s admission of liability, because “the said chairs were ordered by the Agricultural Society of Kenya”.

The September 1992 deal was not the first. Mr Kiore’s company had sold furniture for VIP use in State functions to the government before.

He says the seat was made under strict supervision of the military and State House staff.

The firm says it was asked to make more furniture for presidential lounges at the Eldoret Moi Airbase and Kahawa Garrison and deliver the chairs to the Agricultural Society of Kenya offices in Nairobi for a three-day presidential function.

But the President ordered that the furniture remain at the ASK offices, according to a letter by the ASK dated August 5, 1999.

Now, Furncon wants a declaration that the ownership of the items was passed on to the government in September 1992, under the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act and as such they are instruments of power.

by nation africa


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Business

Go Green na Optiven

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It is the responsibility of everyone to tender and care for the planet for better and healthier future generations.
We call upon you to join any of these categories:
1. Those who are more environmentally friendly
2. Those who are ecologically responsible in both their decision making and lifestyles
3. Those who protect environment
4. Those who protect and sustain the natural resources in their area of business
5. Those who help to conserve resources like water, air and vegetation
6. Those who produce eco-friendly products, thus preventing pollution of our air, water and land
7. Those who can prove that they have been using Green Energy/clean energy such as solar power or if using conventional energy; they are using eco-friendly bulbs and that save energy.
How can each play a role this is a highlight of just but a few but you can  put your   role that  you are doing  to promote the  green agenda
1. Builders/Engineers/Architects/Interiors designers
i. Use of solar energy/ Use of solar panels
ii. Use of Energy saving bulbs, florescent tubes
iii. Use of organic paints, light friendly windows
iv. Use of Eco-friendly toilets
v. Harvesting of rain water from roof tops, use roofs that are Eco-friendly, ensure that water does not go to waste
vi. Proof of reduction of water bills as a result of going green
vii. Water recycling technologies like Bio digester
viii. Those whose provide green buildings, Eco-friendly homes
2. Farming, gardening, landscaping experts
i. Use of drip or sprinkler on not flooding water while gardening or farming
ii. Use of organic pesticides
iii. Use of organic manure
iv. Those who increase forests cover
3. Health businesses, Schools, Hospitals
i. Those providing natural skin care products & not petroleum or synthetic ingredients on the products
ii. Those offering advice on going green, creating awareness of going green
iii. Those who teach children on being a friend of the earth
iv. Those who buy from ethical farmers who are known to produce organic products
4. Transport industry, drivers, delivery companies and logistics firms/organizations
i. Those who reduce carbon emissions directly or indirectly
ii. Any Awareness of climate change
iii. Any knowledge of carbon emissions and how to reduce?
5. Property Owners within Optiven Projects
i. Planting of trees in their plots
ii. Adoption of water recycling technology
iii. Establishment of Green Spaces
iv. Proper waste disposal
6. SMEs
i. Those who recycle waste
ii. Those manufacturing from the recycled materials
iii. Those who take proper care of electronic wastes
iv. Tech companies that have a green policy on disposal of electric waste
v. SMEs that can prove awareness of global warming
7. Families
i. Those who adopt any of the going green initiative say family tree planting, planting a tree during birthday instead of having a birthday cake or doing both
ii. With children who are aware of climate change and also alive to ways of preventing in preventing it
iii. Families that are involved in separation of different form of waste and or engaged in any form of recycling
8. Hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment joins
i. Provision of organic food to customers
ii. Support of local farmers who do organic farming
iii. Awareness of climate change and its risks to humanity
9. Decision makers- checking the green component in your venture
i. Any policy decisions on going green
ii. Awareness on global warming
iii. Any knowledge of implementation of United Nations Development Goals
10. Children: If you are a child who is school going or otherwise and you have started being sensitive to the planet by doing conservation activities
11. Others: If you  believe that you are a friend of the planet, let us know
#SaveTheEarth
#SaveOurPlanet
#GoingGreen=Healthy Families
George Wachiuri
Trustee
Optiven Foundation


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VIDEO: Optiven CEO opens up about growing up in abject poverty, doing laundry for fellow students

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George Wachiuri, the CEO of Optiven Limited, has opened up about a side of him few people know about. Despite having built a multi-billion Shilling Real Estate Company and becoming one of the most recognisable names in the field, Wachiuri has remained a humble servant, who says he views his customers as associates and greatly respects and values his work mates. 

In an interview with Jeremy Damaris of Kenya Diaspora Media, he tells of how he struggled, lost money and friends, before rebounding “by the grace of God.”

A Certified Public Accountant – CPA (K) and is a former Lecturer at Daystar University, his entrepreneurial spirit developed early, and was awarded the Entreprenuer of the year 1997 by the University of Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD candidate at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

He holds a Masters’s degree in Business Administration (University of Nairobi), and a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing option) Degree from University of Nairobi.

Watch as he tells his amazing story in Gīkūyū


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