Monday, March 18, 2013

To Live In . . . UHURU !!!!

What does it mean to live in “Uhuru”? Uhuru is a Swahili word meaning independence; freedom. What exactly is freedom? Can you taste it, see it, reach out and touch it? The answer to these questions is no. However, if reflected upon, freedom can certainly be felt, not in the physical sense but by the emotion called feeling.

An exemplary story about living in Uhuru (freedom) is that of Wangari Maathai. Professor Maathai was a celebrated environmentalist, but what was equally remarkable about her was 'her open defiance of outdated, male chauvinistic, neo-colonial and repressive attitudes and traditions' that hindered not just women, but Kenya as a whole. Her memoir, aptly titled Unbowed is an autobiographical account of her desire to live in freedom and to forge new territory by living ‘unbowed’ in her convictions.

A review of ‘Unbowed’ by the American Library Association provides insight into Wangari Maathai’s extraordinary life. She was the mother of three, the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate, and the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai of Kenya understood how the good earth sustains life both as a biologist and as a Kikuyu woman who, like generations before her, grew up nourishing food in the rich soil of Kenya's central highlands. In her engrossing and eye-opening memoir, a work of tremendous dignity and rigor, Maathai described the paradise she knew as a child in the 1940s, when Kenya was a "lush, green, fertile" land of plenty, and the deforested nightmare it became. Discriminated against as a female university professor, Maathai fought hard for women's rights.

And it was women she turned to when she undertook her mission to restore Kenya's decimated forests, launching the Green Belt Movement which provided women with work planting trees. Maathai's ingenious, courageous, and tenacious activism led to arrests, beatings, and death threats, and yet she and her tree-planting followers remained unmoved and UNBOWED. As Kenya's deputy minister for the environment and natural resources, Nobel laureate, visionary, and hero, Maathai restored humankind's innate, if nearly lost, knowledge of the intrinsic connection between thriving, wisely managed ecosystems and health, justice, and peace. She epitomized what it means to live in ‘Uhuru’.

It is my belief that everyone, particularly every woman, will greatly benefit by reading Wangari Maathai’s memoir, 'Unbowed', and hopefully at the end of its pages feel inspired by the message to truly live independently in freedom or ‘Uhuru’. This is what the book has done for me. It taught me something so important about life . . . To live unbowed (or in other words unyielding) in freedom is the emotion that comes with feeling something so strongly that we are inspired to act with conviction, faith, and courage in order to triumph over whatever it is that may come our way.

To live in Uhuru is a state of independence, not dependence, which is best achieved by embracing the principles of being educated, strong, persistent, wiser, and braver than we ever thought we could be. No matter what it is you believe in or are passionate about . . . use your voice with confidence in a positive way . . . letting your unique spirit shine … that is what it truly means to embody ‘Uhuru’!

To read Wangari Maathai’s remarkable story about posessing the will to make change occur, listen, no matter where you are from, as this book and its central theme about being 'unbowed' will positively change your life. Here is the link to purchase the book on Amazon:

And one more thing . . . as a testament to Wangari Maathai’s life of living ‘unbowed’ there is a special place in the heart of Nairobi-Kenya called Uhuru Park … a green reserve amidst vast high-rise development.

So cool!