A young Pakistani woman who courageously stood up to those who would deny young girls the right to education, and a man in India who has dedicated his life to ending child slavery have been jointly awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
"I [expressed] my concerns [to President Obama] that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact." —Malala Yousafzai, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize recipient
The Norwegian Nobel Committee gave the annual honor to Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, a Muslim, and India's Kailash Satyarthi, a Hindu, for their separate, but shared, "struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education."
According to the committee's announcement:
Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age. It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.
Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, 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.
Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay 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.
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. Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.
At 17, Malala's selection makes her the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
According to the Associated Press:
The news set off celebrations on the streets of Mingora, the main town in Pakistan's volatile Swat valley, with residents greeting each other and distributing sweets. At the town's Khushal Public School, which is owned by Malala's father, students danced in celebration Friday, jumping up and down.
When she was a student there, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations with the help of British medical care, she continued both her activism and her studies.
Appropriately, Malala was at school in the central English city of Birmingham at the time of the Nobel announcement and was expected to make a statement later Friday.
Satyarthi, 60, has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labor since 1980, when he gave up his career as an electrical engineer. The grassroots activist has led the rescue of tens of thousands of child slaves and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation. He has also survived several attempts on his life.
"Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime," Satyarthi told The Associated Press at his office in New Delhi. "If any child is a child slave in any part of the world, it is a blot on humanity. It is a disgrace."
Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, said the decision will further the rights of girls.
Though rarely mentioned in western media, in addition to speaking out forcefully against the Taliban, Malala has also expressed deep criticism of the role that the U.S. war against the Taliban—specifically the use of aerial drone attacks in western Pakistan—have played in setting back the prospects of peace in her part of the world.
As Common Dreams reported last year:
Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gunshot to the head by members of the Taliban for speaking out on women's right to education, told President Barack Obama in an Oval Office meeting on Friday that he should stop drone strikes in countries such as Pakistan.
In a statement released after the meeting, Yousafzai said that she told Obama that she is concerned about the effect of U.S. drone strikes in her country—a portion of the conversation that was omitted from White House statements so far.
"I [expressed] my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism," Yousafzai said in a statement released by the Associated Press. "Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."