The Queen of My Self


The entire planet is heating up right now. Global warming is playing havoc with weather patterns, which in turn affects all plant and animal life. Our emotions are fired up and disagreements are reaching a boiling point, as is evidenced by the ever-increasing and escalating geo-religious-political-economic conflicts around the globe.

Time out! 

Now is the time to turn our attention to positive solutions and focus our thoughts and actions creating peace. Peace of Mind. Peace of Heart. Peace on Earth. There is a chance for peace.

An African woman, Dr. Wangari Maathai, was 2004’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Her story…

Thirty years ago, in the country of Kenya,

90% of the forest had been chopped down.

Without trees to hold the topsoil in place,

the land became like a desert.

When the women and girls would go in search

of firewood in order to prepare the meals,

they would have to spend hours and hours

looking for what few branches remained.

A woman named Wangari

watched all of this happening.

She decided that there must be a way

to take better care of the land and

take better care of the women and girls.

So she planted a tree.

And then she planted another.

She wanted to plant thousands of trees,

but she realized that it would take a very

long time if she was the only one doing it.

So she taught the women who were looking

for firewood to plant trees, and they were paid

a small amount for each sapling they grew.

Soon she organized women all over the country

to plant trees, and a movement took hold. It was

called the Green Belt Movement, and with each

passing year, more and more trees covered the land.

But something else was happening

as the women planted those trees.

Something else besides those trees was taking root.

The women began to have confidence in themselves.

They began to see that they could make a difference.

They began to see that they were capable of many

things, and that they were equal to the men.

They began to recognize that they were deserving

of being treated with respect and dignity.

Changes like these were threatening to some.

The president of the country didn’t like any of this.

So police were sent to intimidate and beat Wangari

for planting trees, and for planting ideas of equality

and democracy in people’s heads, especially in


She was accused of “subversion” and arrested many


Once, while Wangari was trying to plant trees, she


clubbed by guards hired by developers who wanted

the lands cleared. She was hospitalized with head


But she survived, and it only made her realize that


was on the right path.

For almost thirty years, she was threatened


and she was often made fun of in the press. But she

didn’t flinch. She only had to look in the eyes of


three children, and in the eyes of the thousands of

women and girls who were blossoming right along

with the trees, and she found the strength to


And that is how it came to be that 30 million trees

have been planted in Africa, one tree at a time.

The landscapes–both the external one of the land

and the internal one of the people–have been


In 2002, the people of Kenya held a democratic

election, and the president who opposed Wangari and

her Green Belt Movement is no longer in office.

And Wangari is now Kenya’s

Assistant Minister for the Environment.

She is 65 years old,

and this year she planted one more tree

in celebration and thanksgiving

for being given a very great honor:

Wangari Maathai has been awarded

the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the first

African woman to receive this award.

After she was notified, she gave a speech entitled,

“What Do Trees Have To Do With Peace?”

She pointed out how most wars are fought

over limited natural resources, such as oil, land,

coal or diamonds. She called for an end to

corporate greed, and for leaders to build more

just societies. She added:

“Our recent experience in Kenya gives hope

to all who have been struggling for a better future.

It shows it is possible to bring about positive


and still do it peacefully. All it takes is courage


perseverance, and a belief that positive change is


That is why the slogan for our campaign was ‘It is


“On behalf of all African women, I want to express

my profound appreciation for this honour,

which will serve to encourage women in Kenya,

in Africa, and around the world to raise their

voices and not to be deterred.”

“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of

peace and seeds of hope. We also secure the future

for our children. I call on those around the world

to celebrate by planting a tree wherever you are.”

As she received the Nobel Peace Prize this week

in Oslo, she invited us all to get involved:

“Today we are faced with a challenge

that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that

humanity stops threatening its life-support system.

We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds

and in the process heal our own.”

* * *

Can we accept Wangari’s invitation?

As we look around our neighborhood or city,

as we look at our own country,

What is needed?

What is our equivalent of planting one tree?
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to