Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have both been honored by the Nobel Committee to share this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. This prize is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards that the world has to offer, going to champions of liberty that advocate a better world, frequently under enormous pressure and turmoil from often violent opposition. Some past winners have been among the most visible and well-known activists for peace in world history, including Martin Luther King, Jr, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Jimmy Carter. Many believed Malala Yousafzai was going to win last year, although she did finally receive it this year, now adding her name to this list.
In a nation, and indeed a region, beset by violence from hard-line religious fundamentalists, Malala Yousafzai has come to represent moderation, progress, and greater equality and opportunity, specifically for women. Despite her youth, Yousafzai has championed the cause of education and greater opportunity for girls in her native Pakistan. This, even in the face of violent opposition to that very idea from hardline Islamic traditionalists who feel threatened by such notions. She survived a gun shot to the head by a member of the Taliban in 2012 for her activism, which is symbolic of the level of distrust and hate that she and others like her face. Yet after surviving her injuries, she remains undeterred in still continuing to be a voice and activist for girls to receive better education in Pakistan. She was considered a serious candidate last year, although she ultimately was not nominated then.
This year, Malala Yousafzai did receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which she will share with Kailash Satyarthi. While Malala Yousafzai was already well known, and now has achieved yet another distinction as the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, Kailash Satyarthi is not nearly as famous. Many had never heard of him prior to his being nominated for the Nobel Peace prize yesterday. Kailash Satyarthi is a 60-year old man from New Delhi who has tirelessly worked to free enslaved children from illegal trafficking. He and his organization, the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) have been fighting child poverty for a very long time. Satyarthi has maintained that so long as child poverty continues to exist, they will continue to be subjected to crimes such as child labor and trafficking.
In picking a young Pakistani girl and an Indian man, a Muslim and a Hindu, during a time of escalated tensions in that region, the Nobel Committee seems to be trying to put pressure on the two nations to find some reconciliation. India and Pakistan, both countries that possess nuclear weapons, have had four wars since the split of Pakistan from India, which it had previously been a part of. They have had an ongoing dispute over Kashmir, a region which both sides claim belongs to them. This conflict reached a level of violent fighting between the two sides not seen in a decade, as fears have risen about the possibility of continued escalation between the two sides.
Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi will now share the honor of having received the Nobel Peace Prize. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon suggested that in shooting Malala Yousafzai, they showed that what they fear most is a girl with a book. In awarding two such very different individuals who, each in their own way, share a determination to combat prejudices and lack of opportunity in their troubled region of the world, the Nobel Committee and the United Nations want to capitalize on this opportunity as a sliver of hope that a better world is possible. This they hope to do through the examples of these two individuals, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, who despite their obvious differences, will now share the honor of receiving the Nobel Peace prize, perhaps the most prestigious award that the world has to offer.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Tim Ereneta