[10 October 2014] -
Two of the 21st century’s greatest champions of children’s rights have been rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly honoured by the Norwegian Nobel Committee for their work promoting access to education and the right of children to be free from exploitation in their native countries of Pakistan and India, respectively.
Yousafzai gained international fame after being shot by Taliban fighters for daring to campaign for girls’ rights to education in her home country.
Having survived the incident, she has gone on to make speeches at the United Nations and met world leaders including President Obama, in a bid to make her message heard across the world. Aged just 17, she is the youngest winner of the prize in history.
Satyarthi, 60, has led a peaceful movement against children in India being exploited for financial gain since 1980. The Save the Childhood Movement (Bachpan Bachao Andolan) has campaigned for new legislation to tighten restrictions on child labour in India, has led a successful movement to make the right to an education free and compulsory in the country and has worked to eliminate child labour and trafficking across South Asia. The campaign is believed to have helped as many as 80,000 children during the course of its existence.
The Nobel committee said Satyarthi had demonstrated the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, while “he has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.”
The news comes amidst increased tension between the Indian and Pakistani governments following the election of the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister and continued fighting between Taliban and government forces in Pakistan.
Commenting on the nationalities of the joint-winners, the committee said 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”.
The announcement falls on the 25th anniversary year of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child coming into force.
The two winners beat off competition from a record 278 nominees to win the prize, including Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Pope Francis and, controversially, Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Previous winners of the prize include Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.