17-yr-old Malala Emerges Youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for risking their lives to fight for children’s rights. The decision made Malala, a 17-year-old student and education activist, the youngest-ever Nobel winner.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited the two ‘for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education

“We have awarded two people, from Pakistan and India, a Muslim and a Hindi, and it is in itself a strong thing,to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism,” Jagland said, adding that he thought the committee’s decision would be well received around the world.

The Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature were announced earlier this week. The economics award will be announced on Monday.

All awards will be handed out on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896, the Peace Prize in Oslo, all others in Stockholm .

The Associated Press reported that the news set off celebrations on the streets of Mingora, the main town in Pakistan’s volatile Swat valley, with residents greeting each other and distributing sweets. At the town’s Khushal Public School, which is owned by Malala’s father, students danced in celebration Friday, jumping up and down.

When she was a student there, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations with the help of British medical care, she continued both her activism and her studies.

Children’s rights activist, Malala spoke of her joy at winning the Nobel Peace Prize – a statement she waited to make until she had finished school for the day.

The Daily Mail in a report on Friday, quoted her speaking from her school in Birmingham, thanking her father Ziauddin for ‘not clipping her wings’, and how she had to be taken out of chemistry class to be told she had won.

Miss Yousafzai became a household name after her campaigning for girls’ right to education led to an assassination attempt by the Taliban two years ago, and has worked tirelessly as a human rights campaigner following her recovery.

“Normally when I go and speak like this, the only issue I face is usually that the podium is taller than me,” the young winner joked as she took to the stage at Edgbaston High School for Girls, her school in Birmingham.

“I feel honoured to be chosen as a Nobel laureate and that I have been honoured with this precious award and I am proud to be the first Pakistani, the first young person and young woman to win.”

Malala, who is the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, spoke of how she found out she was the joint winner, during a chemistry class on Friday morning.

“I was in chemistry class and we were looking at electrolytes, it was about 10.15am. I was not expecting I would get this award, and by 10.15am I was sure I had not,” she said.

“Then my teacher took me to one side and told me, I was totally surprised.

“I decided that I would not leave my school, so I finished my schooltime and went to physics and English,” adding how all her teachers and school friends had praised her.

“I want to thank my family, my dear mother, my dear father. My father did not give me something extra, but what he did, he did not clip my wings.

“I am thankful to him for letting me fly.”

“I’m proud that I’m the first Pakistani and the first young woman, or the first young person, who is getting this award.”

Malala spoke of how honoured she was to receive the award and to share it with fellow children’s rights campaigner Kaliash Satyarthi.

“This is not just a piece of metal or a medal or an award you keep in your room.

“This is not the end, this is not the end of my campaign, this is the beginning.”

“In Pakistan] I had two options, one was not to speak and wait to be killed and the second was to speak up and then be killed, I chose the second.”

The Nobel Peace Prize committee said: “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations.

“This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances.

“Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.”

When a journalist at the press conference questioned why Malala was given the prize as ‘she has not achieved anything’, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee Thorbjörn Jagland was swift to hit back and defend her.

“How can you say that?! Thanks to Malala, the issue of children’s rights has been put on the world agenda.”

Her first cousin Mehmood ul-Hassan, the administrator of Khushal Public School where she studied before being shot, said the whole family was delighted she had received the award.

“We cannot express the level of our happiness in words,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“I just spoke to Ziauddin (Malala’s father), and her mother. I also spoke to Malala, and they are all very excited and happy about this.

“Malala told me that Allah has blessed her with this award and she hopes this peace prize will help her cause (of educating girls), which is what she is focused on.”

Miss Yousafzai was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education, speaking out in TV interviews.

The Taliban had overrun her home town of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, ordering teachers and students into the all-encompassing burqas.

She was critically injured in October 2012, when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head.

A bullet narrowly missed her brain and she was later airlifted to Britain for specialist treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where she underwent numerous surgeries and made a strong recovery.

Malala currently lives with her father, mother and two brothers in Birmingham, attending a local school, Edgbaston High School for girls.

She has since written a book, I Am Malala, spoken to international audiences and on television and has been been showered with human rights prizes, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award.

Last month the Pakistani military arrested ten men, all part of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for the attempted murder of Malala.

Satyarthi, 60, has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,’ the Nobel committee said.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has campaigned with Malala on education issues since leaving office, said: ‘Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi are the world’s greatest children’s champions.

“They are two of my best friends and two of the greatest global campaigners who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for their courage, determination and for their vision that no child should ever be left behind and that every child should have the best of chances.

“Kailash’s life-long work in India fighting child labour – which I have had the privilege to see at first hand – complements Malala’s work standing up for girls’ rights to education, from Pakistan to the rest of the world.”

Malala’s journey began in 2009 when as a seventh grade student in the Swat District she was approached about writing an anonymous blog for the BBC expressing her views on education and life under the threat of the Taliban taking over her valley

Malala – now one of few people recognised by just her first name – did this with the blessing of her father, teacher and poet Ziauddin Yousafzai.

She chronicled events as the Taliban’s military hold on the area intensified and they issued edicts banning women from going shopping and limiting their education.

On January 3 2009, Malala wrote: ‘I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban.
“I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.

“Only 11 students attended the class out of 27.

“The number decreased because of Taliban’s edict.

“My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.”

When she was revealed as the author of the blog Malala and her father began to receive death threats but by 2011 she had been awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

On October 9 2012 a masked gunman boarded her school bus and Malala was hit by a single bullet which went through her head, neck and shoulder, narrowly missing her brain.

Her attempted assassination was condemned across the globe and more than two million people signed the Right to Education petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan’s first right to education bill.

On July 12 last year, Malala marked her 16th birthday by delivering a landmark speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York as part of her campaign to ensure free compulsory education for every child.

“Here I stand, one girl, among many,” she told world leaders. “I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.’

The speech saw July 12 marked as Malala Day and the campaign has seen the teenager pen a memoir, I Am Malala, and she has been named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

The girl named after the Pashtun heroine Malalai has also set up the Malala Fund with the aim of ‘empowering girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change’.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan congratulated the nation, Malala and her family, noting she was the first minor to win a Nobel Prize.

“(This) has given pride to the whole of Pakistan,” he said.

The Nobel committee’s announcement reflected a delicate diplomatic balance, naming one activist from Pakistan and another from India, two countries that are long-time bitter rivals; one Muslim and one Hindu; both sexes; an elder statesman of child’s rights and a youthful advocate who had herself been a victim.

Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said it was important to reward both an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim for joining “in a common struggle for education and against extremism.” The two will split the Nobel award of $1.1 million.

By highlighting children’s rights, the committee widened the scope of the peace prize, which in its early days was given for efforts to end or prevent armed conflicts.

“It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected,” the committee said. “In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.”

Raised in Pakistan’s ruggedly beautiful, politically volatile Swat Valley, Malala was barely 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education, speaking out in TV interviews. The Taliban had overrun her hometown of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, ordering teachers and students into the all-encompassing burqas.

She has been showered with human rights prizes, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Award.

The Nobel committee said Satyarthi was carrying on the tradition of another great Indian, Mahatma Gandhi.

“Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain,” the committee said.

A well-known sociologist in India said the award this year would have a great impact on children’s lives in his country.

“The world has come to recognize the extremely difficult situation in which a large number of children live in India, supporting themselves and their families by engaging in hazardous jobs,” said A.N.S. Ahmed.

The founder of the Nobel Prizes, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, said the prize committee should give the prize to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The committee has interpreted those instructions differently over time, widening the concept of peace work to include efforts to improve human rights, fight poverty and clean up the environment.

Former Indian diplomat Lalit Mansingh praised the Nobel committee’s choice this year.

“(They are) conscious of helping in conflict resolution. The award, especially at a time when India-Pakistan relations are under stress, is a nice gesture,” he said.

The Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature were announced earlier this week. The economics award will be announced on Monday.

All awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.

 

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