60-year-old Satyarthi, who gave up his job as an electrical engineer to run an NGO in India for rescuing children from forced labour and trafficking, and 17-year-old Malala, who survived a near-fatal Taliban attack two years ago with determination advocating education for girls, were named by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for the prestigious global award this year.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” the jury said while announcing the USD 1.1 million award to be given in December.
Satyarthi, who runs an NGO Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (Save Childhood Movement), reacted to the announcement with elation, saying the award would spur him into further action to try and eliminate child slavery in India.
Satyarthi, whose organisation has rescued over 80,000 children from forced labour and trafficking, also congratulated co-winner Malala.
“I know her. I will call her and congratulate her. We have to go further and work for peace between the two nations (India, Pakistan).”
A host of leaders including President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi congratulated both the winners.
Modi said “The entire nation is proud of his momentous achievement. Kailash Satyarthi has devoted his life to a cause that is extremely relevant to entire humankind. I salute his determined efforts.”
Applauding Malala, Modi said that her life’s journey has been of immense grit and courage.
Expressing happiness over the honour for Satyarthi and Malala, Gandhi said the awards have brought “glory to the entire South Asia”.
The Nobel Committee said Satyarthi 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 Committee said it “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.”
Malala, who was nominated in the peace prize category last year also, had displayed tremendous courage even after the Taliban attack when she resolutely expressed her determination to carry on with her campaign for child rights and girls education especially in a country like Pakistan.
She has become the youngest Nobel laureate.
Satyarthi, the second Indian after Mother Teresa to be named for the peace prize, and Malala join a select league of eminent international personalities who have shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding work in furthering world peace and in other fields.
Malala, who was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham where she was treated for life-threatening injuries, continued to campaign for girls’ education.
She addressed the UN last year, met US President Barack Obama and was named one of ‘Time’ magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Last year, she published her memoir ‘I Am Malala’.
In the statement, the 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.” This year’s record number of 278 nominees included Pope Francis and Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, although the full list was kept a secret.
In 1993, F W de Klerk, the last president of South Africa in the apartheid regime, and Nelson Mandela were named for the award for their work for ending the apartheid regime.
Next year, Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin shared the honours with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their work in reducing tensions in the Middle East.
While in 1997 John Hume (Northern Ireland) and David Trimble (Britain) won the peace prize for their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Nobel, a wealthy Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, provided few directions for how to select winners, except that the prize committees should reward those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”.