Pakistan’s Malala and India’s Satyarthi share Nobel Peace Prize
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Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who defied the Taliban to promote female education, and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Yousafzai – better known across the world simply as “Malala” – and Satyarthi, 60, won the prize for their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” according to the press release by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Yousafzai, now 17, was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago. She survived the attack and has continued to campaign vociferously for female education. The Pakistani teen becomes the youngest Nobel laureate in history.
Speaking at a news conference in Birmingham, England, where she is now based, the teen said she was honoured to be the youngest person and the first Pakistani to ever receive the prestigious prize.
She dedicated the accolade to the world’s “voiceless” children.
"The award is for all the children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard," she said.
Yousafzai also invited feuding Indian and Pakistani prime ministers, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on December 10.
Satyarthi – founder of the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which can be translated as “Save the Childhood Movement” – has maintained the tradition of IMahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,'' the Nobel committee said.
In its citation, The Nobel Committee noted it was “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”.
Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan have been bitter foes since the two countries gained independence in 1947. The two nuclear-armed South Asian nations have gone to war twice and have waged several smaller scale conflicts over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The Nobel Peace Prize announcement came as border skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani forces in recent days have left at least 17 civilians on both sides dead and displaced thousands.
Defying the Taliban from Swat to the UN
Born in the picturesque Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan, Malala first gained attention in 2009, when she was just 12, after she wrote a diary about life in her native Swat as it fell under Taliban influence. Her preternaturally sagacious insights into the importance of education and her determination to buck the Taliban clampdown on girls’ education caught the attention of the BBC, which published her diary.
Three years later, the Pashtun student made international headlines when she was shot in the head at close range in her school bus by a Taliban militant.
She survived the attack, enduring a life-saving operation in Pakistan before being airlifted to Britain for further treatment and extensive rehabilitation.
Barely nine months after her traumatic, near-death experience, the outspoken Pakistani girl riveted audiences across the world when she delivered a speech at the UN on her 16th birthday, a day the UN marked as “Malala Day”.
Responding to the news of the award on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated the schoolgirl and called her “the pride” of his country.
"She has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment," said Sharif.
‘Recognising the plight’ of children
Unlike the Pakistani teen, Satyarthi was relatively unknown on the international stage before Friday’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement.
But in activist circles, Satyarthi’s work on children’s rights is highly regarded. A winner of several international awards and the subject of numerous TV programmes and documentaries, Satyarthi is known in his native India for his work in helping tens of thousands of children forced into slavery by businessmen, landowners and others to gain their freedom.
Reacting to the news on Friday, Kailash thanked the Nobel committee for "recognising the plight of millions of children who are suffering in this modern age", according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
He credited India's "alive" and "vibrant" democracy for the success of his campaign championing children’s rights.
"Something which was born in India has gone global and now we have a global movement against child labour," he said in an interview on an Indian TV station.
"After receiving this award, I feel that the people will give more attention to the cause of the children in the world."
This year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee that picks the winner received a record 278 nominations, more than any other time in the past. And the buzz has steadily built leading to Friday's announcement.
The Nobel announcements continue Monday with the economics awards.
As always, the awards will be presented on December, 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.
The peace prize was the fifth of this year's Nobel awards. The prize is named after Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.