Pakistani child education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian child rights campaigner, Kailash Satyarthi, have jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize. The duo is the 95th Nobel Peace Prize winners and Malala’s win takes the number of women on the list to 16 out of 95.
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 in its citation.
At the age of just 17, Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the prize, eclipsing Australian-born British scientist, Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he shared the Physics Prize with his father in 1915.
Malala who was in Nigeria a few months ago to join advocacy for the release of the over 200 school girls abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State, was tipped to win last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The two South Asian activists beat other notable personalities including Pope Francis and American whistleblower Edward Snowden who were the favourites this year to win the coveted honour. The winners this year were selected from a list of 278 nominees, the highest number of candidates ever. The list included 47 organisations, the Nobel committee said. The previous record was 259 in 2013.
This year’s prize is likely to be seen as an uncontroversial choice from a Norwegian Nobel committee which has not shied away from controversy in recent years, says the BBC’s Lars Bevanger in Oslo. Norway’s relations with China are still suffering after a Chinese dissident won the peace prize in 2010, he said.
The Nobel Peace prize, worth about $1.1 million (approximately N176 million), will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the famous award in his 1895 will.
Malala was taken out of her classroom in her new home city of Birmingham to be told the news on Friday, before the whole school was given the news in an impromptu assembly.
Announcing the winners yesterday, chairman of the Nobel committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, praised the pair’s “struggle against the suppression of children and young people.”
“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 has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today,” Jagland said, adding that “in 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.”
He particularly paid tribute to Malala’s achievements, saying, “despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai, 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.”
On Satyarthi, the Nobel committe said he has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, “focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.”
Malala was shot in the head in Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan by the Taliban in 2012, but she survived after her treatment in the United Kingdom and became a symbol of triumph over adversity. The famous advocate for girls’ education continues to fight for their right to go to school. She now lives in Birmingham in the UK, where she set up the Malala Fund which supports local education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.
When she opened the Library of Birmingham last year, Malala Yousafzai charmed the crowd by referring to them as “fellow Brummies”. It was a deft touch from a teenager who many believe is destined for a life in politics either here or in her native Pakistan. She arrived in the city in horrific circumstances after surviving an assassination attempt and was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. The expertise gained by medics who are used to patching up wounded troops from conflict zones, meant it was the best place for her treatment. She remains an outpatient, and today the hospital trust praised her for her “remarkable recovery and fight to lead a full life as a vibrant and spirited teenager”.
Malala has remained in the public eye since then, publishing an autobiography and addressing aUN General Assembly. Malala was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in 2013, and awarded the EU’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize the same year.
On his part, 60-year-old Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save the Childhood Movement, which campaigns for child rights and an end to human trafficking. The Bachpan Bachao Andolan, established in 1983, is credited with freeing over 80,000 child labourers across India. A former electrical engineer, Satyarthi has been involved in various global campaigns against exploitation of children which include Global March Against Child Labour, the International Center on Child Labor and Education and the Global Campaign for Education.