Malala, a 17-year-old student and education activist, is the
youngest ever Nobel winner. She was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two
years ago for insisting that girls also have the right to an education. Satyarthi,
60, has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and
exploitative child labor since 1980, when he gave up his career as an
electrical engineer. 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 also survived several attempts on his life.
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 bitter rivals; one Muslim and one Hindu; both
sexes; an elder statesman of child’s rights and a youthful advocate who had
herself been a victim.
The Nobel Committee said it was an important point to reward
both an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim for joining “in a common struggle
for education and against extremism.” The two will split the Nobel award of
By highlighting children’s rights, committee widened the
scope of the peace prize, which in its early days was given for efforts to end
or prevent armed conflicts.
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, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up
girls’ schools, ordering teachers and students into the all-encompassing
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 specialist treatment at the Queen
Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, she underwent numerous surgeries but made a
strong recovery. Malala currently lives with her father, mother and two
brothers in Birmingham, attending a local school. She has been showered with
human rights prizes, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award.
The Nobel committee said Satyarthi was carrying on the
tradition of another great Indian, Mahatma Gandhi.
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.
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