It was a string of firsts in the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize as Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai,shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating girls’ right to education, and Indian campaigner against child trafficking and labour, Kailash Satyarthi were announced the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Yousafzai, aged 17, by the feat, becomes the youngest Nobel Prize winner and 60-year-old Satyarthi the first Indian-born winner of the accolade.
The duo were picked for their struggle against the oppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to education, the Norwegian Nobel Committee explained.
“The Nobel Committee 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,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Kristian Berg Harpviken, head of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, described the joint award “an innovative prize that brings attention to the problems of the young”.
Satyarthi said he hoped to work with Yousafzai for peace.
“I will invite her to join hands to establish peace for our subcontinent, which is a must for children, which is a must for every Indian, for every Pakistani, for every citizen of the world,” he said at the New Delhi office of his organisation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save the Childhood Movement.
Yousafzai later told reporters in the English city of Birmingham where she now lives that she had spoken by telephone with Satyarthi and they had agreed to invite the prime ministers of India and Pakistan to the ceremony in December.
“The tension that is going on is really disappointing and I’m really sad because I want both countries to have dialogue to have talks about peace,” she said.
Yousafzai said she had found out about winning the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday from a teacher during a chemistry lesson, adding that the news had come as a big surprise.
“This is not the end of this campaign which I have started. I think this is really the beginning. I want to see every child going to school,” she said, adding she felt “really honoured”.
Yousafzai was attacked in 2012 on a school bus in the Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan by masked gunmen as a punishment for a blog that she wrote for the BBC’s Urdu service as an 11-year-old to campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women an education.
Unable to return to Pakistan after her recovery, Yousafzai moved to England, setting up the Malala Fund and supporting local education advocacy groups with a focus on Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya.
Her former teacher, Ahmed Shah, said the peace prize was wonderful news for Pakistan.
“This is a breath of fresh air, a gift for Pakistan, at a time when we are embroiled in terrorism and violence and wars,” Shah told Reuters by telephone from the Swat Valley.
“Those who oppose her, extremist elements or whoever else, they have been rendered irrelevant. They are a weak minority”, he said.