Malala, Kailash win Nobel Peace Prize

Pakistani teenager 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 won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

malala-kailash-satyarthiWith the prize, Yousafzai, 17, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner, eclipsing Australian-born British scientist Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915.

Satyarthi and Yousafzai were picked for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“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,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

“It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today,” Jagland said. “In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.”

Satyarthi has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations, focusing on the exploitation of children for financial gain.

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.

The prize, worth about $1.1 million, 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.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, is hailed around the world as a champion of women’s rights who stood up bravely against the Taliban to defend her beliefs.

But in her deeply conservative homeland, many view her with suspicion as an outcast or even as a Western creation aimed at damaging Pakistan’s image abroad.

Malala, now aged 17, became globally known in 2012 when Taliban gunmen almost killed her for her passionate advocacy of women’s right to education.

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She has since become a symbol of defiance in the fight against militants operating in Pashtun tribal areas in northwest Pakistan — a region where women are expected to keep their opinions to themselves and stay at home.

“The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born,” she told the United Nations last year.

“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him,” she said in a speech which captivated the world.

Malala has also won the European Union’s human rights award and was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Prize last year.

Now based in Britain, she is unable to return to her homeland because of Taliban threats to kill her and her family members. The current Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, was the one who ordered the 2012 attack against her.

Yousafzai has enrolled in a school in Birmingham and become a global campaigner for women’s right to education and other human rights issues, taking up issues such as the situation in Syria and Nigieria.

In her native Swat valley, however, many people view Malala — backed by a supportive family and a doting father who inspired her to keep up with her campaign — with a mixture of suspicion, fear and jealousy.

At the time of her Nobel nomination last year, social media sites were brimming with insulting messages. “We hate Malala Yousafzai, a CIA agent,” said one Facebook page.

She was a young student in the Swati town of Mingora in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when she became interested in women’s rights.

At the time, the Taliban were in power in the strategic valley after they took control over the region and imposed strict Islamic rules, including their opposition to women’s education.

She wrote an anonymous blog describing her life under the Taliban controlled the region. In October 2012, after the Taliban were pushed out of Swat by the Pakistani army, she was shot in the head on her way to school by a Taliban gunman.

She survived after being airlifted to Britain for treatment and recovered from her life-threatening wounds.

“The wise saying, ‘The pen is mightier than sword’ was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens,” she told.

Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi has been active in movement against child labour since the 1990s in India.

His organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, has freed over 80,000 children from various forms of servitude and helped in successful re-integration, rehabilitation and education.

Satyarthi has headed various forms of peaceful protests and demonstrations, focusing on the exploitation of children for financial gain.

He has been a member of a UNESCO body established to examine this and has been on the board of the Fast Track Initiative.

Kailash Satyarthi has been the subject of a number of documentaries, television series, talk shows, advocacy and awareness films.


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