Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai and Indian veteran Kailash Satyarthi carry off this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, highlighting their work in championing children’s rights.
Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi share the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Oct 10. With her win, Yousafzai, 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner by far.
Satyarthi, 60, and Yousafzai were picked for their struggle against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, says the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Significantly, the award is being given to Satyarthi and Yousafzai at a time when hostilities have broken out between India and Pakistan along the border of the disputed, mainly the Muslim region of Kashmir – the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than a decade.
“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” says Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she started writing for the BBC’s Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women an education.
Unable to return to Pakistan after her recovery, Yousafzai moved to Britain, setting up the Malala Fund and supporting local education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.
Satyarthi, who gave up a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to campaign against child labour, has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations, focusing on the exploitation of children for financial gain.
“It’s an honor to all those children still suffering in slavery, bonded labour and trafficking,” Satyarthi tells TV news channel CNN-IBN after learning of his win. In a recent editorial, Satyarthi says that data from non-government organisations indicated that child labourers in India could number as high as 60 million or 6% of the total population.
“Children are employed not just because of parental poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, failure of development and education programs, but quite essentially due to the fact that employers benefit immensely from child labour as children come across as the cheapest option, sometimes working even for free,” he writes.
Yousafzai last year addressed the UN Youth Assembly in an event Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “Malala Day”. This year she travelled to Nigeria to demand the release of 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram. “To the girls of Nigeria and across Africa, and all over the world, I want to say: don’t let anyone tell you that you are weaker than or less than anything,” she says in a speech.
“You are not less than a boy,” says Yousafzai. “You are not less than a child from a richer or more powerful country. You are the future of your country. You are going to build it strong. It is you who can lead the charge.”
The prize, worth about US$1.1mil (RM3.6mil), will be presented in Oslo on Dec 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the award in his 1895 will. The previous youngest winner was Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915. – Reuters