Malala ‘honoured’ to receive joint Nobel Peace Prize

Pakistani teenage activist and Indian children’s rights advocate honoured

Malala Yousafzai acknowledges the crowd at a press conference at the Library of Birmingham after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize today. Photograph:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Malala Yousafzai acknowledges the crowd at a press conference at the Library of Birmingham after being announced as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize today. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

 

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, said she was honoured to have been chosen as joint winner of the Nobel Prize today.

“I’m feeling honoured that I’m being chosen as a Nobel Laureate,” she said, speaking from Birmingham, England where she is now based. “I’m proud that I’m the first Pakistani and first the young woman, or the first young person, who is getting this award.”

The 17-year-old student and education activist is the youngest ever Nobel winner. She received the award jointly with Kailash Satyarthi of India for risking their lives to fight for children’s rights.

Mr Satyarthi (60), has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labour since 1980, when he gave up his career as an electrical engineer.

The Nobel committee’s announcement reflected a delicate diplomatic balance, naming one activist from Pakistan and another from India, two countries that are long-time rivals; one Muslim and one Hindu; both sexes; an elder statesman of child’s rights and a youthful advocate who has herself been a victim.

The Nobel committee said it was an important point to reward an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim for “a common struggle for education and against extremism”. The two will split the Nobel award of $1.1 million (€880,000).

By highlighting children’s rights, the committee widened the scope of the peace prize, which in its early days was given for efforts to end or prevent armed conflicts.

Malala speech on receiving Tipperary Peace Prize

“It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected,” the committee said. “In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.”

Malala was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education in Pakistan, speaking out in TV interviews. The Taliban had overrun her home town of Mingora, terrorising residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, and ordering teachers and students into burqas.

She was critically injured on October 9th, 2012 when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. The bullet did not enter her brain and was saved — and by the quick intervention of British doctors visiting Pakistan.

Flown to the UK for specialist treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, she underwent numerous surgeries but made a strong recovery. She now lives in Britain.

She was awarded the EU’s Sakharov Prize last year. She also travelled to Ireland last year to accept the Tipperary Peace Award.

The Nobel committee said Mr Satyarthi was carrying on the tradition of another great Indian, Mahatma Gandhi.

“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,” the committee said.

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 survived several attempts on his life.

“This is an honour for all my fellow Indians, as well as an honour for all those children in the world whose voices were never heard before properly,” Mr Satyarthi said.

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.

“The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents contributes to the realisation of the ‘fraternity between nations’ that Alfred Nobel mentions in his will,” the committee said. The awards will be handed out on December 10th, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.