Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi share Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize
by Andrew Branch
Posted 10/10/14, 01:26 pm

Malala Yousafzai was in chemistry class Friday when she learned she’d won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The Pakistani children’s advocate will share the award with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi. After the announcement, Yousafzai said she continued to treat it like a normal day.

“It’s not going to help me in my tests and exams, because that all depends on my hard work,” Yousafzai told reporters. “But I’m still really happy.”

The 17-year-old is the youngest recipient of any Nobel award. The Pakistani teen became famous after a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head Oct. 9, 2012. Quick action by British doctors saved her life, and she now attends school in the English city of Birmingham. She advocates for education for all children, especially girls.

Similarly, the 60-year-old Satyarthi has been leading demonstrations against child slavery and exploitative child labor since 1980. “Child slavery is a crime against humanity,” Satyarthi told The Associated Press from New Delhi. “Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains, but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime.”

Yousafzai and Satyarthi will share the Nobel award of $1.1 million.

The peace prize has been controversial in the past, with the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s often politically liberal judgements. It awarded the prize to President Barack Obama in 2009 and the United Nations’ climate change panel in 2007. But this year’s panel saw a world where more countries are facing potentially violent crises than in recent memory.

“There is a lot of extremism coming from this part of the world,” committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told The Associated Press. “It is partly coming from the fact that young people don’t have a future. They don’t have education. They don’t have a job.” The committee made a strong, multi-faceted statement by selecting an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim, two countries and religions with historic tensions, both internally and with each other.

Optimism in both India and Pakistan was high Friday, with observers saying the awards should further the pair’s human rights causes.

“(The Nobel will) boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls’ education,” Yousafzai’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, said. Children danced in celebration at the school Yousafzai owns in the family’s hometown of Mingora, in Pakistan’s volatile Swat Valley. Residents greeted each other and exchanged sweets as celebrations filled the streets.

In India, sending children to work dangerous jobs remains some families’ only option for survival, while the Hindu caste system presents a unique barrier to children in poverty. “The award will have a deep impact not just on the Indian government, but also on the civil society, to work with passion and improve the condition of children by enforcing their rights,” said A.N.S. Ahmed, a well-known sociologist in India.

True to the committee’s sentiment, Yousafzai told reporters she and Satyarthi have committed to working together between the two countries, as relations along the India-Pakistan border are again strained. They will receive the awards on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

“This is not the end of the campaign that I have started,” Yousafzai said. “It is only the beginning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Branch

Andrew is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.

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