The mission of the Wangari Maathai Foundation is to advance the legacy of Wangari Maathai by nurturing a culture of purpose and integrity that inspires courageous leadership.  The vision is that by 2020 we will have created a vibrant forum focused on children and that educates, empowers, and engages them to grow into responsible citizens.

The three strategic priorities of the WMF are to establish the Wangari Muta Maathai House– a center for reflection, inspiration and action; develop and run the Wanakesho Program (“Children of Tomorrow”); and set-up an outstanding leadership development program –the “En-Courage Leadership initiative”.


Imagine a country where:

  • 80% of the population is under the age of 35 and more than half of its young population is neither in school nor employed in the formal economy;
  • where an overwhelming majority (80% ) of the working population is employed in the informal sector;
  • where youth unemployment rates in both the formal and informal economy top 80%;
  • where 90% of all unemployed young people lack vocational skills;
  • where half the population cannot access educational opportunities beyond the primary school level;
  • where there is a clear mismatch between the skills provided by schools and universities and the ones that employers seek; and
  • where the growth of the country’s economy has trouble keeping up with the rapid growth of its youth population.

The above scenario describes the plight of Kenya’s youth today.  Even more startling is the fact that between now and 2050, it is estimated that 40 to 50 million children will be born in Kenya.  Juxtaposing the plight of Kenya’s Youth and the estimated population growth creates a sense of urgency to accelerate the creation of successful strategies or programs that help youth progress from their current situation to social and economic empowerment. There is a gap between these 2 paragraphs. We need to link the despondency resulting from lack of gainful employment and engagement with the findings from Aga Khan University in the next paragraph – for now, there is a hiatus

A recent survey by the Aga Khan University’s East Africa Institute –

  • Corruption is devastating to any economy, democracy, and the natural environment in which citizens survive.  Kenya has been ranked among the top 10 most corrupt countries in recent years (PwC survey, 2016), and in 2016 the Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission reported that Kenya loses a third of its state budget, USD 6 billion, to corruption every year.  This is unacceptable.  In short, corruption costs lives, freedom, health, and money.  Since 1956, Kenya has worked on anti-corruption legislation and still has a long way to go.  Anti-corruption efforts have been frustrated and are generally ineffective, and therefore new strategies for addressing it are needed.   The Wangari Maathai Foundation’s (WMF) unique approach is based on the fact that a major root cause of corruption in Kenya is the erosion of societal values.   A values-based education program that targets youth and children in early education programs would, therefore, be the beginning of uprooting a culture of corruption. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has already identified value-based education as an important pillar of the ongoing curriculum reforms. The aspirations of the WMF, in this respect, therefore, will contribute to helping the government achieve the expected outcomes and impact of the curriculum reforms.

    The theory of change that guides the work of WMF is based in the premise that youth in Kenya will play a profound role in shaping the future, and the reality that, in Kenya today, corruption persists in society and affects almost every aspect of our lives.   In the absence of effective corrective consequences to corruption, corrupt leaders emerge as the primary role models for youth, further breeding a culture of negative character.   By introducing positive role modelling, and a character building program early in the education system, islands of positive culture emerge, from which leaders of integrity to emerge.  Growing these islands of positivity eventually leads to more leaders with integrity, and over the long run, this will result in real change and an erosion of the corruption culture.  The future of Kenya depends on the quality of her leaders. WMF recognizes that because young people will play a profound role in shaping the nation’s future, a moulding of core values and personal character is necessary and critical to remedy youth apathy, the courage deficit, and the perceived legitimacy of corruption.