An inspired choice for the 2004 prize. Here is the press release from the Norwegian Nobel Foundation:
The Nobel Peace Prize 2004
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 to Wangari Maathai for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.
Maathai stood up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya. Her unique forms of action have contributed to drawing attention to political oppression - nationally and internationally. She has served as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and has especially encouraged women to better their situation.
Maathai combines science, social commitment and active politics. More than simply protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to secure and strengthen the very basis for ecologically sustainable development. She founded the Green Belt Movement where, for nearly thirty years, she has mobilized poor women to plant 30 million trees. Her methods have been adopted by other countries as well. We are all witness to how deforestation and forest loss have led to desertification in Africa and threatened many other regions of the world - in Europe too. Protecting forests against desertification is a vital factor in the struggle to strengthen the living environment of our common Earth.
Through education, family planning, nutrition and the fight against corruption, the Green Belt Movement has paved the way for development at grass-root level. We believe that Maathai is a strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions on that continent.
Wangari Maathai will be the first woman from Africa to be honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize. She will also be the first African from the vast area between South Africa and Egypt to be awarded the prize. She represents an example and a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace.
Oslo, 8 October 2004.
There's a profile on About.com's excellent Women's History site, with links to further resources.
Report online at the Guardian. I'll look for more reaction on Saturday.