Friday, October 10, 2014 4:20 pm
When told she had won the Nobel peace prize on Friday, education rights campaigner, 17 year-old, Malala Yousafzai was appropriately enough at school in central England, where she has been living after recovering from a Taliban bullet.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to her and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for their championing of children’s rights.
Malala was the youngest Nobel laureate ever.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said the duo had been chosen for their struggle against the repression of children and young people and “for the right of all children to education”.
Malala, who had fought for years for the right of girls to education in her strictly Muslim home region, leapt to global fame after the Taliban tried to gun her down in October 2012.
Her campaign, the Nobel committee said, has been carried out “under the most dangerous circumstances”.
“Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education,” the committee said.
The selection of such a young winner was bound to be eye-catching, but another unusual aspect of this year’s prize was the choice of citizens from the hostile neighbours of India and Pakistan. Seventeen civilians have been killed in the last few days in the disputed Kashmir region, the worst violence for decades.
Satyarthi, who founded a consumer campaign in the 1980s to combat child labour in the handmade carpet industry, said he was “delighted,” calling the Nobel prize “recognition of our fight for child rights”.
The low-profile 60-year-old activist heads the Global March Against Child Labor, a combination of some 2,000 social groups and union organisations in 140 countries. He is credited with helping tens of thousands of children forced into slavery by businessmen, landowners and others to gain their freedom.
“Something which was born in India has gone global and now we have a global movement against child labour,” he told Indian television.
Praises for Malala and Saryarthi
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, the United Nations special envoy for global education, who has also played a key role in promoting her role, voiced delight at the Nobel victory also for Indian campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.
“They are two of my best friends and two of the greatest global campaigners who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for their courage, determination and for their vision that no child should ever be left behind,” Brown said in a statement.
He praised Malala for “standing up for girls’ rights to education from Pakistan to the rest of the world”.
In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Malala the “pride” of his country.
“She has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparallelled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment,” he told AFP in a statement.
The head of the UN educational organisation UNESCO praised both winners, saying the awarding of the peace prize “sends out a resounding message to the world on the importance of education for building peaceful and sustainable societies”.
“Kailash Satyarthi is a close friend of UNESCO and has been at the forefront of the global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labour since 1980,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said.
“Malala stands with us in the struggle for universal education, especially for girls,” Bokova said.
After visiting her in hospital, Brown took up Malala’s cause with a petition for universal primary education handed to the Pakistani government on a day he named Malala Day and later arranging for her to speak at the United Nations.
British International Development Secretary Justine Greening also congratulated the joint winners saying the prize was “richly deserved”.
“Their courage to champion the rights of young people, particularly girls, is inspirational and has helped open up opportunities for children around the world,” she said.
“Every young person deserves to be able to go to school, work and make their own life choices without facing violence.”Israel’s former president Shimon Peres, one of the oldest Nobel Peace Prize laureates, congratulated Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai on her award for the same honour on Friday.
“The decision to award Malala the prize is a worthy one,” Peres, 91, said in a statement.
“She is a symbol to women and girls across the world and an example to all of us,” he said, paying tribute to the youngest Peace Prize laureate.
Peres was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize as foreign minister jointly with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for Israel’s 1993 Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.