Wangari Maathai in the Media: A critical perspective
No one is a prophet in their own land. The aphorism is far from a platitude in Kenya where an iconic international figure incarnated by Prof. Wangari Maathai was little appreciated in her homeland Kenya but feted globally. To be true, Wangari’s life trajectory is a reminder not only of the gender inequalities and iniquities that have beleaguered Kenya since time immemorial but also it is symbolic of an individual’s dogged determination to make the world a better place through sound management of the environment. It is, therefore, important to review how the media impacted on her life and more broadly how the media handles celebrities in Kenya. Of particular interest is the manner in which the male-dominated media in Kenya had been downplaying Wangari’s image as a leader save from the ‘tree-hugging’ stereotype. Similarly, Wangari’s political initiatives had little if any impact on Kenya due to her inexperience in playing dirty in the Kenyan political arena. Upon recognition by the Nobel Committee and her commendation, Wangari assumed a larger than life profile albeit in a media environment that was hardly friendly. Nevertheless, her contribution was not lost to Kenyans, Africans and the world at large. The world feted Wangari and Kenya had no choice. This article critiques the role of the media, mainly the mainstream media, and problematizes its coverage of Wangari’s epic efforts until 2012.