Child rights activists Malala of Pakistan, Kailash Satyarthi of India win Nobel Peace Prize

Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel winner ever as she and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labour at great risk to their own lives.

OSLO, Norway — Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel winner ever as she and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labour at great risk to their own lives.

By honouring a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan and a 60-year-old Hindu man from India, the Norwegian Nobel Committee linked the peace award to conflicts between world religions and neighbouring nuclear powers as well as drawing attention to children’s rights.

“This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard,” said Malala, who chose to finish her school day in the central English city of Birmingham before addressing the media. “They have the right to receive quality education. They have the right not to suffer from child labour, not to suffer from child trafficking. They have the right to live a happy life.”

She said it was an honour to share the prize Satyarthi, who has worked tirelessly to protect children, and invited the prime ministers of both India and Pakistan to attend the Nobel ceremony in December.

Satyarthi has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labour, which he called a “blot on humanity.”

“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 labour in my lifetime,” Satyarthi told The Associated Press at his office in New Delhi.

News of the award set off celebrations on the streets of Mingora, Malala’s hometown 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.

Malala was in chemistry class when the Nobel was announced and remained with her classmates at the Edgbaston High School for girls.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, said the decision will further the rights of girls.

“(The Nobel will) boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls’ education,” he told the AP.

Malala is by far the youngest Nobel laureate, eight years younger than the 1915 physics prize winner, 25-year-old Lawrence Bragg. Before Malala, the youngest peace prize winner was 2011 co-winner Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, a 32-year-old women’s rights activist.

In Washington, President Barack Obama called the Nobel announcement “a victory for all who strive to uphold the dignity of every human being.”

“Malala and Kailash have faced down threats and intimidation, risking their own lives to save others and build a better world for future generations,” he said in a statement.

In a tweet, first lady Michelle Obama said of the two: “You’re heroes to me and millions around the world.”

Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said it was important to reward both an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim in the common struggle for education and against extremism. The two will split $1.1 million.

“There is a lot of extremism coming from this part of the world. 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,” Jagland told the AP.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the decision “has given pride to the whole of Pakistan.” India’s President Pranab Mukherjee said the prize recognized “the contributions of India’s vibrant civil society in addressing complex social problems such as child labour.”

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

“In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation,” the Nobel committee said.

Commentators around the world praised the decision to focus on children’s rights.

“The biggest threat to the Taliban is a girl with a book,” said Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s foreign minister and a former U.N. envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“The true winners today are the world’s children,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Raised in Pakistan’s ruggedly beautiful, politically volatile Swat Valley, Malala was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education, speaking out in TV interviews. The Taliban had overrun her hometown of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, ordering teachers and students into all-encompassing burqas.

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

Flown to Britain for treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, she underwent numerous surgeries but made a strong recovery. Malala now lives with her father, mother and two brothers in Birmingham. She has been showered with human rights prizes, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award.

Yet her memoir, “I Am Malala,” published last year, reminded the world that she was still just a teenager — one who likes TV shows such as “Ugly Betty” and the cooking show “MasterChef,” who worries about her clothes and her hair and wishes she was taller.

The Nobel committee said Satyarthi was carrying on the tradition of another great Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, who remains the most notable omission in the 113-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“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.

A.N.S. Ahmed, a well-known sociologist in India, said the award should prod the Indian government to do more in a country where a large number of children must support their families by engaging in dangerous jobs.

“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,” he said.

The founder of the Nobel Prizes, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, said the prize should go 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 Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature were announced earlier this week. The economics award will be announced on Monday.

All awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

EDMONTON — Alberta’s COVID-19-era budget made a hard landing Thursday with an… Continue reading

The expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has been discussed for over a decade. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital expansion gets about $6 million in 2021 provincial budget

According to the government’s three-year plan, the project will get $59 million by 2024.

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell is hoping to pick up where he left off last season as the 2020-21 WHL season kicks off Friday in Red Deer against the Medicine Hat Tigers. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels set to host Tigers in WHL season opener

24-game WHL Alberta only season kicks off night Friday at the Centrium

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

Team Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson reacts to her shot against Team Quebec at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

FILE - New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist reacts after a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in New York, in this Sunday, March 1, 2020, file photo. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 5-3. Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist will sit out the upcoming NHL season because of a heart condition, announcing the news a little more than two months after joining the Washington Capitals. Lundqvist posted a written statement and a videotaped one on social media Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, saying it was a "pretty tough and emotional day." The 38-year-old from Sweden was bought out by the New York Rangers after 15 seasons and signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with Washington in October. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa holds up water collected from Neskantaga First Nation, where residents were evacuated over tainted water in October, during a rally at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Quebec starts COVID-19 vaccination bookings for seniors; those in Ontario must wait

Quebec starts COVID-19 vaccination bookings for seniors; those in Ontario must wait

The corporate logo of Pembina Pipeline Corp. (TSX:PPL) is shown. Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp. says it is "doing what is right for the country and fellow Canadians" by shipping unit trains full to propane to Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Pembina Pipeline posts $1.2 billion loss on petrochemical, LNG project impairments

CALGARY — Pembina Pipeline Corp. is reporting a $1.2 billion net fourth-quarter… Continue reading

Most Read