OSLO: Malala Yousufzai received the Nobel Peace Prize on Wednesday as the youngest ever laureate, sharing her award with Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.
“A young girl and a somewhat older man, one from Pakistan and one from India, one Muslim, the other Hindu; both symbols of what the world needs: more unity and fraternity between the nations,” Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, said at the ceremony in Oslo, the capital of Norway.
Malala, 17, became a global icon after she was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in Swat on Oct 9, 2012, for insisting that girls had a right to education.
Although she almost died, she recovered after being flown for extensive surgery to Birmingham, England.
She has been based in the city with her family ever since, continuing both her education and activism.
Malala has already been honoured with a host of awards, standing ovations and plaudits everywhere from the United Nations to London’s Buckingham Palace.
In an inspiring speech at the ceremony, the Nobel laureate said she would continue her fight for education until every child was in school.
The shackles of slavery can never be stronger than the quest for freedom, says Satyarthi
“I will continue this fight until I see every child in school,” the 17-year-old schoolgirl from Swat told an audience in Oslo City Hall after receiving the award.
Malala Yousufzai peppered her speech with self-deprecating humour, using the award ceremony to call not just for education but also fairness and peace.
“The so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don’t.
Why is it that countries which we call `strong’ are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace?,” she said in her speech.
“Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard? Why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so difficult?
Malala, who described herself as the “first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who still fights with her younger brothers”, triggered not only applause but also frequent outbursts of laughter during her speech.
On the eve of the ceremony, she vowed that she would not rest on her laurels, even saying she would like one day to become Pakistan’s prime minister.
“If I can serve my country best through politics and through becoming a prime minister, then I would definitely choose that,” she told the BBC.
“I want to serve my country and my dream is that my country becomes a developed country and I see every child get an education.”
Minutes after Malala received the prize, a man carrying a Mexican flag walked towards her, but was caught by security. His motives were unknown.
Nobel winners receive $1.1 million (roughly 110 million rupees), which is shared in the case of joint wins.
SAVE CHILDHOOD: Kailash Satyarthi, 60, was recognised by the Nobel committee for a 35-year battle to free thousands of Indian children from virtual slave labour.
“I refuse to accept that the world is so poor, when just one week of global military expenditure is enough to bring all of our children into classrooms,” he said after receiving the prize.
“I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be stronger than the quest for freedom.”
SYMBOLISM: The pairing of Malala and Satyarthi had the extra symbolism of linking two countries that have been in conflict for almost seven decades.
After she was named as the winner in October, the 17- year-old had said she wanted the two countries’ prime ministers to attend the prize-giving ceremony in Oslo.
She did not forget to express her disappointment on Wednesday. “If the prime ministers had come here I would have been very happy.”
“I would have thought of it as a big opportunity to ask them... to make education their top priority and work on it together because we see that most of the children who are out of school and suffering from child labour are mostly in India and Pakistan.”
Published in Dawn December 11th , 2014