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Nobel Peace Prize to Pakistan’s Malala and India’s Satyarthi
October 11, 2014, 8:14 am
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Combination picture of this year's Nobel Peace Prize winners, Indian children's right activist Kailash Satyarthi (left) and Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.

They won the prize for their struggle against suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.

The Nobel Peace Prize went on Friday to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for their work on promoting child rights.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousufzai for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” the jury said.

Yousufzai, now 17, is a schoolgirl and education campaigner in Pakistan who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago.

Satyarthi, 60, has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the Nobel committee said.

Showing great personal courage, Satyarthi has "headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain."

He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children's rights.

Against extremism

The Nobel Committee said it “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.”

The founder of the Nobel Prizes, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, said the prize committee should give the prize to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The committee has interpreted those instructions differently over time, widening the concept of peace work to include efforts to improve human rights, fight poverty and clean up the environment.

Child rights

Satyarthi runs the Bachpan Bachao Andolan NGO that works for child rights, specially bonded labour.

Despite her youth, the committee said, Malala has "already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations".

"This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls' rights to education," it added.

After Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman as she took a bus home from school in Pakistan's northwest region in October 2012, she was flown to Britain for specialised treatment.

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".

It highlighted that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000, the figure was 78 million higher.

Malala's rise to fame

Yousufzai, while traveling to school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in October 2012, was shot in the head in retaliation for her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling, defying threats from militants in her hometown of Mingora. The bullet struck just above her left eye, grazing her brain.

She now attends school in Birmingham, UK, where her father works at the consulate, after being flown to the UK for emergency treatment. She gained global recognition after pledging to continue her struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.

The prize, along with literature, physics, medicine and chemistry honours, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901.

Winners include the European Union, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa.

Women’s Voice

“The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens,” Yousufzai said in a speech last year at a UN youth assembly. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.”

Taliban guerrillas carry out attacks in Swat, an area they previously controlled before a 10-week army offensive starting in 2009 ending their rule.

The Taliban had beheaded local officials and burned schools in a two-year fight to impose their strict interpretation of Islamic law that uprooted 2 million people from their homes in the forested, mile-high valley that lies 155 miles north of the capital Islamabad.

“This is good news not only for Malala or for her family or for the people of Swat, but for all the people of Pakistan,” Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said at a press conference in Islamabad. “We’re proud of this small girl, who through her bravery and commitment, at a very small age has won the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Basic Education

Yousufzai has risen to fame in a country where only 40 percent of adult women can read and write compared with 90 percent in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.

The country’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in an alleged Taliban attack in 2007. Pakistan has also had a female governor of its central bank, Shamshad Akhtar, as well as woman speaker of parliament in Fahmida Mirza.

Millions of Pakistani women are deprived of basic education and equal work opportunities. Of those women, only 22 percent above 15 go out and work in Pakistan, compared to 78 percent of males, according to a study by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

Love of learning

Yousufzai started blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC when she was 11 years old, chronicling Taliban oppression and her love of learning.

The following summer the New York Times filmed a documentary about her life. As she rose in prominence, the Taliban targeted her for maligning insurgents.

“The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambition,” Yousufzai said last year. “But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

Nigeria Girls

Yousufzai celebrated her 17th birthday by visiting Nigeria to campaign for the release of more than 200 school girls abducted by local militants. She met president Goodluck Jonathan and the families of the kidnapped children.

She has also won the Amnesty International Award, the International Children’s Peace Prize and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.

Yousufzai is the second Pakistani to win a Nobel Prize after Abdus Salam, whose works in the field of particle physics earned him an award in 1979, which he shared with two other scientists.

The award will be handed out at a ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Nobel.

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