For the first African woman to receive the award, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to empower rural women in Kenya to reverse deforestation should have been Wangari Maathai's big moment. But her award was overshadowed by a remark she allegedly made to a Kenyan newspaper wherein she claimed HIV/AIDS was originally developed by Western scientists in order to depopulate Africa. Maathai later denied these claims but stated in a TIME interview that someone knows where HIV came from and it "did not come from monkeys." Following her 2004 triumph, Maathai engaged in a number of environmental projects and served for a time as Kenyan Deputy Minister of the Environment. She died last week at age 71, and was described by TIME as someone who "inspired women to stand up for themselves against a corrupt and patriarchal government."
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