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Nobel Peace Prize is a Nod to Education, South Asian Peace

India's Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai share the spotlight for their fight for young people's rights, including the right to education.
BY Uttara Choudhary |   11-10-2014
India's Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai share the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is a big day for South Asia. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize awarded to India's Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai honors their struggles against the exploitation of children and for young people's rights, including the right to education.

At a time when diplomatic talks are frozen between India and Pakistan, the two activists have been cast as envoys for South Asian peace. Nobel Committee Chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said it was important for “a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”

At 17, Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the prize. She was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for campaigning for girls' education in the Swat Valley and writing a diary for BBC Urdu. During the nearly three years that the Pakistani Taliban ruled Swat, they forced schools to close as part of a decree prohibiting girls’ education.

On October 2012, on her way home after school, two gunmen burst into Malala’s school bus. One of the gunmen demanded that the students identify the young campaigner for women’s rights and education, then only 15.

“No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me,” Malala recalled in her memoir “I Am Malala,” which stormed bestseller lists. “I was the only girl with my face not covered.”

The shooting caused widespread revulsion against the Taliban in Pakistan, and the world fell in love with Malala — a bubbly, idealistic and eloquent teenager passionate about education.

It was apt that Malala learned that she won the Nobel while she was in chemistry class and continued to attend school as if it was a "normal day." The bubbly, idealistic teen now lives in the U.K where she is getting treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Envoys for Education

"I'm really happy to be sharing this award with a person from India," Malala said at a news conference.

She spoke with Kailash Satyarthi, 60, a veteran, soft-spoken child rights activist based in New Delhi by phone on Friday. They agreed to work together to advocate that every child is able to go to school. They also decided to try to build a stronger relationship between their countries.

Satyarthi gave up a promising career in engineering to launch Bachpan Bachao Andolan in 1980 to rescue, educate, and rehabilitate tens of thousands of trafficked children from slavery.

“This award is a great honor for all those children who are deprived of their childhood globally," says Satyarthi, who has shown great personal courage and Gandhian resolve in rescuing kids from working in cruel conditions in open coal mines and carpet factories.

Malala and Satyarthi will split the $1.1 million award. They were two of 278 nominations for this year’s prize; Edward Snowden and Pope Francis were also favorites this year.

“It’s clear that the Nobel Committee views the hard work of education and children’s rights as vital components in making South Asia a more peaceful place,” wrote Alyssa Ayres in the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia Unbound blog.

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site and a writer for Forbes India. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism at the University of Westminster, in London.


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