This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners have been announced. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and grassroots activist Kailash Satyarthi of India where jointly awarded the honor this morning, reports the Associated Press (via ABC News and others).
Although it may seem like these two have nothing in common, both have risked their lives in the battle for children’s rights.
Malala survives gunshot wound
Two years ago, a Taliban gunman shot Malala Yousafzai in the head after she insisted that girls have as much right to an education as boys do. The Pakistani teen was only 11 when she started speaking out for girls’ education, giving TV interviews. Militants had taken over the town of Mingora where she lived. They threatened to destroy girls’ schools and ordered all students and teachers to wear burqas.
On Oct. 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman got onto her school bus and shot her in the head, although the bullet didn’t go into her brain. Also British doctors who were in Pakistan worked swiftly to save her life. She was then flown to the U.K. to be treated by specialists at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she had numerous surgeries.
She now lives in Birmingham with her parents and attends a school there. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, she has also won other human rights prizes, including the Sakharov Award, which is handed out by the European Parliament. Malala is the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize.
Satyarthi rescues children
Kailash Satyarthi has been working to put a stop to child slavery and exploitation since 1980. At that time, he ended his electrical engineering career and began rescuing children from slavery. Tens of thousands of children have been rescued by him, and he set up a model to rehabilitate and educate those he rescued. Like Malala, the grassroots activist has survived attempts to kill him.
The Nobel Committee commended Satyarthi for carrying on the work of another great Indian civil rights advocate: Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to rescuing children, he has headed up several peaceful demonstrations and protests to speak out for children’s rights.
Nobel Committee makes a statement
The committee took some important steps with this year’s prize. This year reflects a key diplomatic decision, as one winner comes from Pakistan and the other comes from India—two countries that have been bitter rivals for some time. Also one winner is Muslim, while the other is Hindu, and one is a young girl, while the other is a 60-year-old man. On paper, the two couldn’t be more different, but the committee said they joined “in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
The committee also broadened the scope of the prize by granting it to activists who fight for the rights of children. In the early days of the prize, recipients were praised for their efforts to prevent or stop armed conflicts.
Malala and Satyarthi will each receive half of the $1.1 million Nobel Prize.