Karachi, AP—Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban, and India’s Kailash Satyarthi were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their advocacy of rights for children.
“It’s a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in awarding the 8 million-krona (1.1 million US dollar) prize. “In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.”
Yousafzai, 17, became the first teenager to win the prize, announced Friday in Oslo, Norway. Satyarthi, 60, is the founder of the Save Childhood Movement, the largest grassroots group against child labor and trafficking, according to its website. It advocates providing free and compulsory education for all children.
Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the committee, said at the announcement that Satyarthi has in Gandhi’s spirit mobilized public opinion, in India and in other countries.
“It’s not a compensation for the fact that Mahatma Gandhi never got the prize,” Jagland said. “I don’t know why he didn’t get the prize. But we should then appreciate that one who is taking up his tradition gets the prize.”
The prize, along with literature, physics, medicine and chemistry honors, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901. Winners include the European Union, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, who until Friday was the only other Indian to win the prize.
“It’s an honor to all those children who are still suffering in slavery, bonded labor and trafficking,” Satyarthi told news channel CNN-IBN, according to Times of India.
“Something which was born in India has gone globally and now we have the global movement against child labor,” he said. “After receiving this award I feel that people will give more attention to the cause of children in the world.”
Satyarthi wrote in an article in the Mint newspaper in 2011, that India had about 60 million child laborers, far surpassing the country’s official estimates of 4.3 million.
President Pranab Mukherj said the prize should be seen as a “recognition of the contributions of India’s vibrant civil society in addressing complex social problems,” according to a statement.
In October 2012 Yousafzai, while traveling to school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, was shot in the head in retaliation for her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling, defying threats from militants in her hometown of Mingora. The bullet struck just above her left eye, grazing her brain.
She now attends school in Birmingham, England, after being flown to Britain for emergency treatment. She gained global recognition after pledging to continue her struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Yousafzai celebrated her 17th birthday by visiting Nigeria to campaign for the release of more than 200 school girls abducted by local militants.
“The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens,” Yousafzai said in a speech last year at a UN youth assembly. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.”
Taliban guerrillas carry out attacks in Swat, an area they previously controlled before a 10-week army offensive starting in 2009 ending their rule. The Taliban had beheaded local officials and burned schools in a two-year fight to impose their strict interpretation of Islamic law that uprooted 2 million people from their homes in the forested, mile-high valley that lies 155 miles north of the capital Islamabad.
“This is good news not only for Malala or for her family or for the people of Swat, but for all the people of Pakistan,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said at a press conference in Islamabad. “We’re proud of this small girl, who through her bravery and commitment, at a very small age has won the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Yousafzai has risen to fame in a country where only 40 percent of adult women can read and write. At 11 she started blogging under a pseudonym for the BBC, chronicling Taliban oppression and her love of learning. The following summer the New York Times filmed a documentary about her life. As she rose in prominence, the Taliban targeted her for maligning insurgents.
The country’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in an alleged Taliban attack in 2007. Pakistan has also had a female governor of its central bank, Shamshad Akhtar, as well as woman speaker of parliament in Fahmida Mirza.
Millions of Pakistani women are deprived of basic education and equal work opportunities. Of those women only 22 percent above 15 go out and work in Pakistan, compared to 78 percent of males, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Yousafzai has also won the Amnesty International Award, the International Children’s Peace Prize and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize. Yousafzai is the second Pakistani to win a Nobel Prize after Abdus Salam, whose works in the field of particle physics earned him an award in 1979, which he shared with two other scientists.