December 11, 2014
Children’s rights campaigners Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were given the ultimate honour for their work today when they jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize.
They stood together on the stage in Oslo to a sustained standing ovation from the packed hall of dignitaries – and then made impassioned speeches about the battle to end discrimination against children.
Education advocate Malala, who is 17, is the youngest person to receive the award. She was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012 as she rode on a school bus in Pakistan. Kailsash, 60, has worked for more than three decades with the movement he founded – Bachpan Bachao Andolan – which has rescued 80,000 children in India from slavery and child labour.
The Nobel Committee said they had jointly won the award for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
Thorbjorn Jagland, leader of the Nobel committee, opened the ceremony and called Malala and Kailash “champions of peace”. He added: “The road to democracy and freedom is paved with knowledge. Taliban and Isil (Islamic State) dislike knowledge because they know it is important on the road to freedom.”
Of Kailash’s work, he said: “Child labour maintains poverty. School attendance releases young people from poverty.”
On Malala, Mr Jagland said her story was now known across the world and added that her courage in the face of Taliban intimidation was “almost indescribable”. He said the Pakistani government had made strides towards better schooling but added: “The best gift they could give her is a dramatic improvement in the country’s education system.”
Kailash was the first to give his acceptance speech. He said: “There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children.
“I refuse to accept that the world is so poor, when just one week of military expenditure can bring all the children into classrooms. I refuse to accept that all the laws and constitutions, and police and judges are unble to protect our children.
“I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be stronger than the quest for freedom.”
Kailash added: “We have made progress in the last couple of decades. The number of out-of-school children has been halved. We have reduced the number of child labourers by a third. But the great challenges still remain.
“We have utterly failed in imparting an education to our children. An education that gives the meaning and objective of life. An education that gives a sense of global citizenship among youth. I am afraid that the day is not far when the cumulative result of all this failure will culminate in unprecedented violence and that will be suicidal for humankind.
He paid tribute to Malala, who he said he now calls “my daughter Malala”. He said she and her friends and young people like them across the world “are rising up and choosing peace over violence, tolerance over extremism and courage over fear”.
Kailash called on world leaders, business, civil society, faith groups and others to end child slavery, trafficking, sex abuse, child labour and illiteracy.
He said: “Friends, we can do this. Governments must make child-friendly policies and invest in education and young people.
“We must be bold, we must be ambitious and we must have the will. We must keep our promises.”
Malala then took to the stage to deliver an emotioned-charged speech. She said: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.
“I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice. It is not time to pity them. It is time to take action so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education.”
She added: “I am just a committed and stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants equal rights for women and who wants peace in every corner of the world. Education is one of the blessings of life – and one of its necessities.”
Malala said said she was dedicating her prize to a friend who had a dream of becoming a doctor but who was married at 12 and had a child at 14. She said her share of the prize money would help to build schools in Pakistan.
She added: “In my own village, there is still no secondary school for girls. It is my wish and my commitment and now my challenge to build one, so my friends and my sisters can get a quality education and get this opportunity to fulfil their dreams.
“That is where I will begin, but it is not where I will stop. I will continue this fight until I see every child in school. “
“Let this be the last time that a classroom remains empty. Let this be the last time that we see a child out of school. Let’s begin this ending today, right here, right now.
Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, said: “Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi today are justly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their passion and commitment to children’s rights.
“They are two of the world’s greatest children’s champions and two friends. Their determination that no child should be left behind has put children’s rights on the global agenda and today the world honours their work.
“Kailash’s life-long work in India fighting child labour, complements Malala’s work standing up for girls’ rights to education.
“I have the privilege of working with both of them and witnessing first-hand their wish that injustice against young people must end now.”
Before the ceremony, thousands of children gathered outside the Nobel Peace Center for a special Peace Party hosted by Save The Children. You can read all about it here.