Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi win Nobel Peace Prize for children’s rights campaigning

by: Qamar Abbas

October 13, 2014

Malala Yousafzai at A World at School’s office in New York

Children’s education activist Malala Yousafzai and child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi have been named as the winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel judges praised them “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Malala, 17 –  the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – found she had won when a teacher told her during her chemistry class at school in England today. In 2012, she was shot in the head on her school bus by the Pakistani Taliban for speaking out about the right of girls to be educated.

After recovering, she gave a historic speech during the first ever Youth Takeover of the United Nations on July 13, 2013 – known as Malala Day. She famously told world leaders: “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

After finishing her classes in Birmingham, Malala said: “I’m feeling honoured that I’m being chosen as a Nobel laureate. I am proud that I am the first Pakistani and the first young person who is getting this award.

She thanked her father for “not clipping her wings”. She added that the award was “not the end of the campaign – this is the beginning. I want to see every child going to school and getting an education.”

She added: “Children should stand up for their rights. Their voices are powerful… This award is for all those children who are voiceless.”

Kailash Satyarthi at A World at School forum

Kailash Satyarthi at A World at School forum last month

Malala said she had spoken to Kailash by telephone and said they had decided to work together to ensure every child gets a quality education. She also said they would work together for better relations between Pakistand and India.

Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said today: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education and has shown by example that children and young people too can contribute to improving their own situations.

“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.”

ON VIDEO: Courage of Malala and Kailash

TRIBUTES: From A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors

Kailash, who is from India, founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save the Childhood Movement, in 1980. He told the BBC: “It’s a great honour for all the Indians, it’s an honour for all those children who have been still living in slavery despite of all the advancement in technology, market and economy. And I dedicate this award to all those children in the world.”

He has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labour since 1980 when he gave up a career as an electrical engineer. As a grassroots activist, he has led the rescue of tens of thousands of child slaves and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation.

Malala with Gordon Brown

Malala with UN special envoy Gordon Brown at the UN in 2013

The Nobel committee said 60-year-old Kailash has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests that focused on the exploitation of children for financial gain. The committee added that it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”.

Both Malala and Kailash have campaigned alongside A World at School to get every child into school and to overcome the obstacles to education, such as child labour, child marriage and discrimination against girls and children with disablities.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, said: “Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi are the world’s greatest children’s champions.

“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 and that every child should have the best of chances.

“Kailash’s lifelong work in India fighting child labour – which I have had the privilege to see at first hand – complements Malala’s work standing up for girls’ rights to education from Pakistan to the rest of the world.

“Both are members of the Emergency Coalition for Global Education that Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow and I, have the honour of chairing, and their deep-seated commitment to children’s rights will ensure that no injustice can last forever.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said of Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize: “Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment.”

Malala has already won several human rights prizes, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award for Freedom of Thought. She was only 11 when she started speaking out about girls’ education in TV interviews.

Kailash Satyarthi with Gordon Brown

Kailash Satyarthi with Gordon Brown at an event in India

Her home town of Mingora had been taken over by the Taliban, who threatened to blow up girls’ schools and  ordered female teachers and students to wear burqas.

She was seriously injured on October 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. The bullet missed her brain and she survived thanks to help from British doctors who were visiting Pakistan.

Malala was flown to Britain for specialist treatment in Birmingham, England, where she had several operations. She now lives in the city with her family.

Also injured in the bus shooting were her friends Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz. The three were reunited in October 2013 in Edinburgh, when they took part in the launch event of the Global Citizenship Commission, a joint initiative between Gordon Brown and New York University.

Malala with Shazia and Kainat

Malala reunited with friends Shazia and Kainat in Scotland last year

Shazia and Kainat paid tribute to Malala on her award today, saying: “We send our heartfelt congratulations to our sister Malala Yousafzai for the prestigious honour of being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

“Malala is an inspiration to us, showing us the difference that women can make and the progress they can help achieve when they stand up for what they believe in and create opportunities to make decisions about the future of their societies and countries.

“It sends a clear message that the world is supporting those who seek to achieve the right of education for girls. It’s an important recognition, not just for Malala but all of our friends and everyone in Pakistan. We are very proud of her.”

Malala and Kailash will receive their awards on December 10.

You can add your voice in support of education and join the growing global movement by signing the #UpForSchool Petition – which calls on world leaders to keep their promise to get every child into school by the end of 2015.