March 8 was International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past and present. In some countries like China, Vietnam, Russia, and Bulgaria, it’s an international holiday.

This year’s United Nations global theme is woman and men united to end violence against women and girls. Did Chris Brown and Rihanna get that email? Other countries have their own themes, but no one can deny that women are not always appreciated, included, heard, and/or safe in many parts of the global community.

One of the most visible advocates to emerge in the US to end violence against women and girls has been Eve Ensler, playwright and peformance artist. Ensler is best known for her one-woman show “The Vagina Monologues.” I saw the play and Ensler before “VM” inspired a movement. I remember thinking the title was more provocative than the actual play. (I mean that in a good way.) Over the years, “VM” has evolved into a multi-cast, star studded event and awareness campaign. Ensler has also morphed “VM” into a global movement under the umbrella V-Day.

The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple act of planting a tree, we give hope to ourselves and to future generations.–Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathi of Kenya is also “one” of those women who started a movement with a single act. Maathi organized rural women to plant trees. The planting of trees was both an act of survival and a peaceful protest against an oppressive Moi government. Maathi was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in her country. She went back to her community to help them take back their lives and claim their rights. Maathi founded the Greenbelt Movement which operates our of Kenya but also has an international division.

In 2004 Wangari Maathi won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

ITVS Community Cinema is hosting free public screenings of the documentary, “TAKING ROOT: The Vision of Wangari Maathai”. [The link will take you to the “Independent Lens” TAKING ROOT site with links to discussion and action guides.] The film is by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater.

When I first screened the film, I noticed one woman making change with her community not just “for.” Movements should not be one-woman or one-man acts. A movement needs a vision, tools, resources, and people with the desire and energy to use all of the above. Maathi doesn’t approach her hometown folk as if she has all the answers. She asked them “What do you need?” Wangari also possessed tools. So did the rural women.

Planting trees yielded modest, yet significant successes. The success gave the women and Wangari’s community the confidence and courage to take it to the next level one woman at a time.

Washington, D.C. Community Cinema screenings of TAKING ROOT:
Sunday, March 15 at 3 PM
Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street, NW at Q

Sunday, March 22 at 5 PM
Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW

Film and discussion on local environmental justice and activism is FREE and open to the public. But you must RSVP/reserve. Email or call 202-939-0794. Visit for more information.

Filmmakers’ website: