Malala Yousafzai wins Nobel Peace Prize

Malala YousafzaiOli Scarff/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who now lives in Birmingham after Taliban terrorists attempted to murder her two years ago, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The award was given jointly to Malala, the youngest ever to receive it, and Kailash Satyarthi, a veteran campaigner for children's rights in India.

Malala came to attention in 2009 after she wrote an anonymous diary for BBC Urdu about life under Taliban rule in north-west Pakistan. She was shot when Taliban terrorists boarded her school bus in the Swat Valley. 

In a statement, the Nobel committee said they awarded them the prize "for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education."

The committee added: "Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. In the poor countries of the world, 60 per cent of the present population is under 25 years of age. It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected. In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation."

In the 95 Nobel Peace Prize awards made since 1901, the average age of the recipients has been 62. Just 16 women have won the prize.

The committee said that despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai had already fought for several years for the right of girls to education and had shown by her example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. She had done this "under the most dangerous circumstances" and through her "heroic struggle" had become a leading spokesperson for girls' rights to education.

She was taken out of school to hear the news.

US journalist Sid Lipsey tweeted: "My favourite press release ever: 'Malala will make her first statement on winning the Nobel Peace Prize after school.'"

The committee added that the other winner, Kailash Satyarthi, had shown "great personal courage" in maintaining Gandhi's tradition. He had headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain. "He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children's rights."

The Nobel committee also said it was "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".

The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents was mentioned in his will by Alfred Nobel as one of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Reacting to the news, Mr Satyarthi, aged 60, who has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children's rights and who founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save the Childhood Movement, which campaigns for child rights and an end to human trafficking, told the BBC: "It's a great honour for all the Indians, it's an honour for all those children who have been still living in slavery despite of all the advancement in technology, market and economy.

"And I dedicate this award to all those children in the world."

Malala was taken out of her classroom in her new home city of Birmingham to hear the news on Friday.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, told the Associated Press that the prize would "boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls' education".

They will receive the £860,000 prize at an award ceremony in Oslo in December.

Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, said Malala Yousafzai was the "pride" of his country. "Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment," he said.

The 278 Nobel Peace Prize nominees included Pope Francis, who was the bookmakers' favourite. No Pope has ever won the award. In 2001, the Lutheran Bishop Gunnar Staalseth of Oslo, Norway, a member of the prize committee, said that no Pope would win the award while the Church persisted with its ban on artificial contraception, which he said "favours death rather than life".