Wangari Maathai, Kenya’s Deputy Environmental Minister and a former head of the National Council of Women of Kenya, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize last Friday for her work on issues such as education, nutrition, and women’s rights. Maathai lead the effort as founder of the Green Belt Movement to “empower women, improve the environment, and fight corruption” for almost thirty years, according to the Associated Press, leading poor women across Africa in the planting of 30 million trees. Maathai explained her work to the Associated Press, saying “many of the wars in Africa are fought over natural resources, ensuring they are not destroyed is a way of ensuring there is no conflict.” This is the first time a Nobel Prize has been awarded for environmental endeavors, with Maathai chosen out of a record 194 nominations.
Austrian novelist Elfriede Jelinek was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last Thursday for speaking out against sexual violence, oppression, and right-wing extremism through her work. According to the New York Times, the academy said that Jelinek “lets her social analysis swell to fundamental criticism of civilization by describing sexual violence against women as the actual template of our culture.” Four of her novels have been translated into English: “The Piano Teacher,” “Wonderful, Wonderful Times,” “Lust,” and “Women as Lovers.”