Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai dies in Nairobi

A member of the Greenbelt Movement holds a portrait of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prof Wangari Maathai, at the NGO’s office in Nairobi yesterday. Prof Maathai died of ovarian cancer.

A member of the Greenbelt Movement holds a portrait of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prof Wangari Maathai, at the NGO’s office in Nairobi yesterday. Prof Maathai died of ovarian cancer. AFP

(Reuters) - Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigns to save Kenyan forests, died in hospital on Sunday after a long struggle with ovarian cancer.

Maathai, 71, founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees to prevent environmental and social conditions deteriorating and hurting poor people, especially women, living in rural Kenya.

Her movement expanded in the 1980s and 1990s to embrace wider campaigns for social, economic and political change, setting her on a collision course with the government of the then-president, Daniel arap Moi. Maathai, who won the Peace Prize in 2004, had to endure being whipped, tear-gassed and threatened with death for her devotion to Africa's forests and her desire to end the corruption that often spells their destruction.

"It's a matter of life and death for this country," Maathai once said. "The Kenyan forests are facing extinction and it is a man-made problem. You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them."

Maathai was born in the central highlands of Kenya on April 1, 1940. She earned a master's degree in the United States before becoming the first woman in Kenya to receive a doctorate for veterinary medicine and be appointed a professor.

"Wangari Maathai will be remembered as a committed champion of the environment, sustainable development, women's rights, and democracy," said former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"Wangari was a courageous leader. Her energy and life-long dedication to improve the lives and livelihoods of people will continue to inspire generations of young people around the world," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "The world has lost a powerful force for peace, democracy and women's rights."

"Her death has left a gaping hole among the ranks of women leaders, but she leaves behind a solid foundation for others to build upon. I was inspired by her story and proud to call her my friend," Clinton said in a statement.

wangari maathai

Former talk show host Oprah Winfrey (R) and Kenyan Environmentalist Wangari Maathai (L) during a Tree Planting & Dedication ceremony commemorating the two-day "Be the Change" leadership conference addressed by both women at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Henley-on-Klip, outside Johannesburg, November 25, 2008. Photo/FILE


In 1989, Maathai's protests forced Moi to abandon plans to erect an office tower in Uhuru Park, an oasis of green that flanks the main highway running through the centre of the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

In 1999, Maathai was beaten and whipped by guards during a protest against the sale of public land in Karura Forest.

The forest in Nairobi covers more than 1,000 hectares and is home to wildlife such as duiker antelopes and civets, as well as caves used by Mau Mau fighters in their struggle against British rule.

"We have lost a serious personality who shaped not only Kenya but the world at large. We have lost a great mind, a great woman who could change lives in this country," said Nairobi resident Gikonge Mugwongo.

Maathai called forest clearance a "suicidal mission".

"To interfere with them is to interfere with the rain system, the water system and therefore agriculture, not to mention the other industries dependent on hydro-electricity."

Maathai's movement spread across Africa and has gone on to plant more than 47 million trees to slow deforestation and erosion. She joined the U.N. Environment Program in 2006 to launch a campaign to plant a billion trees worldwide.

"Her departure is untimely and a very great loss to all of us who knew her -- as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine -- or those who admired her determination to make the world a peaceful, healthy and better place for all of us," her movement said in a statement.

Tributes poured in for Maathai on social media.

"We join family and friends in mourning Prof. Wangari Maathai, a phenomenal woman, a friend and role model. You lived, you inspired," said Kenyan politician Martha Karua on her Twitter account.

Besides founding the Green Belt Movement, Maathai was also elected to parliament in 2002 and appointed assistant minister for the environment in 2003 under President Mwai Kibaki.

Kibaki said Maathai was a "global icon who has left an indelible mark in the world of environmental conservation".

"With the passing on of Professor Maathai, the country and the world has not only lost a renowned environmentalist but also a great human rights crusader," he said.


not blogged for a while…

FB-185215_206462016 Patently, I am upsetting somebody [oh yes - you know who you are – so feel free to comment as you said you are 'itching to''], and I am sorry about that [very sorry actually], and it makes me sad. Very sad.

And  it's made me not want to post for a while. Just writing this post is making my face twitch and collapse with stress…but I've decided after much thought, that I can't not blog because of you I'm afraid. There are too many people who rely on me to post. People who like this blog for whatever reason - usually because they have or have had cancer!

So. Thinking.

I just thought to put my own experience here. That's all. Just my thoughts and feelings. And of course my progress. I have NEVER meant to hurt anyone's feelings.

I am really hoping that my progress is inspiring. Not the WAY I am progressing [because usually I progress in a rather grumpy fashion] but the FACT that I am. The fact that I had Stage 3B ovarian cancer in 2008 and now in 2011 I am still alive….well, that's got to be a good thing right? The 'facts' and 'stats' would have me dead already…pffft!

Facts and stats? Get on – they are theoretical – theories have never been my favourite things. I prefer hard fact. And a lot of the information on the internet is NOT based on fact.

Just like opinions are not necessarily based on fact.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

another goodbye

gaynorThis week I lost a truly lovely friend. The picture above just sums her up for me -  that glorious smile. It says everything about her. She was a person who made me feel welcome in her heart the minute I met her. She was a breath of fresh air in a world where a lot of people seem to have an agenda – Gaynor didn't. She was just as transparent as glass. And brought in as much light. A beam of sunlight. For me anyway. 

We met not that long ago for lunch. What happened? It is so surreal that she has died. I can't quite get my head round it. Shock? Denial?

Gaynor had a recurrence. Ovarian bloody cancer. Of course. They tried everything – different types of chemo, different diet etc. A horrible regime that never seemed to end. And was constantly painful. Horribly painful. But they did their best. And Gaynor fought like a tiger!
But it wasn't enough! Not through their lack of trying, but through lack of knowledge of WHY this disease comes back so viciously. We so desperately need more research into ovarian cancer. 

Hence I am doing the Kenya cycle - not for me. For my friends, here and gone. To support those still battling, and to honour those we have lost.

It was amazing to see her strength in the face of it. She didn't complain, she didn't whine. She got on with her life as much as she could – driving her girls to swimming, going to work – usually exhausted, but always positive…here she is with us. We had a lovely day – full of happiness. And teal balloons!

DSC_0149 Gaynor was a tiny person – same height as me, but slim as a willow. And bubbling with life – she never stopped! But the cancer simply ate her alive. It moved to her bowel and caused ascites. Ascites is horrific and very distressing. She was constantly having it drained as it was crushing the rest of her organs. The process was unpleasant, but she cracked on with it, texting and calling in the midst of what must have been a very uncomfortable experience.

She had serious guts. She was very, very brave.

She leaves three daughters, and of course her husband – all of whom she was so proud. She was always reporting on their achievements, large or small. I keep thinking of them all. And what their day must have been like when Gaynor died. I was shocked and tearful all day and achieved nothing sensible. How did they manage?
She died peacefully and painlessly in her sleep. I was so relieved to hear that from Andy, her lovely husband. They must have felt as if it was all a nightmare – perhaps hoping they'd wake up and it would all have gone away. Would that it had.

Gaynor. My dear friend. I miss you so much already. Your brave and intelligent attack on your illness. Your funny, witty remarks and stories - your calls...your advice. Your support of me. The energetic, non-stop way you lived life. Your fighting spirit. Your amazing shoes :) About which we had an ongoing and hilarious discussion.

shoesYou'll live on in my heart and memory, and in your beautiful girls of whom you were so proud - so you're not gone. Not really.

Just to say au revoir. Not goodbye - just until we meet again.

Gaynor does not want flowers at her funeral. As usual, she was thoughtful to the last  - she would like a donation to Megan's justgiving page instead. Or to Ovarian Cancer Action.

Monday, 5 September 2011

the Kenya cycle: map of the ride

Kenya ride map [sort of! some of the route is by coach, but the map doesn't allow the option to change from bike to bus so I just carried on the route] - if those elevations are real, I am writing my will before I leave ;)
If you use the scroll at the side of the map, then click on the button saying 'view full' at the bottom it will take you to the page that shows all the details, including the hotels that we will be staying at.

Only 53 days to go!! Cycled a quick 12 miles this evening with the FH, outward bound was great, cycling average approximately 16mph...then homeward, about 14 mph average due to horrible wind. But hey ho, the harder it is, the better for the Kenya trip! It's getting harder to be motivated to cycle as the colder weather moves in, but I am getting nervous now, so I am intent on getting out every day. With a couple of back to backs on weekends to give me saddle time.We'll be doing the FORCE Autumn Breeze cycle, approximately 60 miles [100km] soon. Hope it doesn't rain! Hills, wind and rain - ugh!

Friday, 2 September 2011

cycle Kenya is a definite!

fashion_card Well, it seems my brain may have fixed itself – I'm feeling almost normal again. Yay. I think. We'll see. I have my friend constantly on my mind, so it's hard. BUT I know she'd kill me if she thought I was like this due to her. And it's not just her. It's a lot of random things too. Hey ho - onward and upward. Right? Right.

Today was exciting – the letters came out from Action for Charity, to let us know we are definitely confirmed on the cycle! WOOP!! Lots of girls posting on Facebook to say they have their letters, so lots of glee! Quite chuckalicious.

The Oldest Step Daughter [hence known as The OSD for brevity – I can't keep typing all that!], Vick, text me to say she had rung up Action for Charity and is confirmed on the ride – I text back to say I was not yet, and two minutes later, the [beastly and LATE!] postman arrived with the letter to tell me I am too! Surreal! So now all I have to do is find £294.03 for the air taxes…heavens above! It's a lot!! Plus, Kenya insists on a £30.00 CASH payment [surprise, surprise!] for the visa to enter.

But there you go, got to be paid, and the result, lots of awareness [we hope] and lots of funds for research gained. Now just to train to get through the cycle that supports women everywhere who are either in treatment, just out of it or living with the delightful aftermath of having had one of these hideous cancers.

We live with the constant fear of recurrence…it's not nice. We are in remission, but the fear is always still there in the back of the mind. A repulsive rat, gnawing away at ones confidence and every day life. So any support is good, and this cycle is women supporting women.

wild dogs Women supporting women who SO desperately need that support. Ovarian cancer, cervical, breast cancer -  whatever! All these cancers attack women like Wild Dogs on a young animal – with no mercy, and a lot of gruesome bloodshed. Fighting it off is one thing – keeping it at bay – quite another. The strength of mind one needs to cope is quite astounding – I am not sure that I have it. I hope I do, as I need it. This is a trip one travels alone, no matter how many amazing people [and I have a lot of them!] are there beside the road – it's still a journey of solitude in many respects.

After all, it's we who could die of it, no-one else.

If you are at all concerned about any of these women's cancers, please donate here – the smallest donation helps. Thank you!