OSLO: Malala Yousafzai, the global icon of children’s rights who survived a near fatal Taliban gun attack, becomes the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), adding yet another distinction to a long list.
The 17-year-old Pakistani will receive the peace prize in Oslo with the Indian campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, 60, who has fought for 35 years to free thousands of children from virtual slave labor.
Malala has already received a host of awards, standing ovations and plaudits from the United Nations to Buckingham Palace.
But on the eve of the ceremony she said she was far from ready to rest on her laurels.
“We are not here just to accept our award, get this medal and go back home. We are here to tell children especially that you need to stand up, you need to speak up for your rights. It is you who can change the world,” Malala told a press conference at the Nobel Institute in Oslo.
Malala was 15 when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head as she travelled on a school bus in response to her campaign for girls’ education.
Although her injuries almost killed her, she recovered after being flown for extensive surgery in Birmingham, central England.
She has been based in England with her family ever since, continuing both her education and activism.
Asked why she thinks some Islamic extremist groups are opposed to education for girls, Malala, dressed in a multi-colored headscarf, replied: “Unfortunately, those people who stand against education, they sometimes themselves are uneducated or they’ve been indoctrinated.”
‘Sold like animals’
The pairing of Malala and Satyarthi had the extra symbolism of linking neighboring countries that have been in conflict for decades. After being named as a laureate, Malala said she wanted both states’ prime ministers to attend the prize-giving ceremony in Oslo.
While Malala will be the star of the annual Nobels extravaganza – also featuring the literature prize winner, Frenchman Patrick Modiano, and his compatriot Jean Tirole with the economics award – her peace prize co-winner Satyarthi is far less well-known.
He welcomed the increased attention the Nobel brought to the cause of children in bonded labor.
“There are children who are bought and sold like animals,” the jovial 60-year-old, clad in traditional Indian dress, told reporters at the Nobel Institute.
“This is very important for millions and millions of children who are denied their childhood, who are denied their freedom, who are denied their education and health,” he said, adding that the peace prize had shone a spotlight on their plight.
Satyarthi’s organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Movement to Save Childhood) prides itself on liberating more than 80,000 children from bonded labor in factories and workshops across India and has networks of activists in more than 100 countries.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are about 168 million child laborers globally.
Nobel winners receive eight million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, 862,000 euros), which is shared in the case of joint wins.