Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for risking their lives “against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.
The 17-year-old Ms Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel winner, and Mr Satyarthi, 60, collected the award in Oslo City Hall in the Norwegian capital to a standing ovation.
She told the audience that when it came to a child’s right to education she would “continue this fight until I see every child in school”.
“Leaders must seize this opportunity to guarantee a free, quality primary and secondary education for every child,” she said.
To help protect Ms Yousafzai – who had been shot in the head by Taliban extremists in Pakistan in 2012 – Oslo has been dominated by armed police and security guards for days, with blocked-off streets, metal fences and helicopters whirring above.
“I am pretty certain that I am also the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who still fights with her younger brothers,” Ms Yousafzai said. “I want there to be peace everywhere, but my brothers and I are still working on that.”
In his speech to an audience including Norwegian royalty and politicians, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said all children have a right to childhood and education, and “this world conscience can find no better expression” than through this year’s winners.
Referring to Ms Yousafzai’s serious injury in Pakistan two years ago, he said Islamic extremist groups dislike knowledge because it is a condition for freedom.
“Attendance at school, especially by girls, deprives such forces from power,” he said. He praised Mr Satyarthi’s vision of ending child labour and how he had quit a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to fight for that vision.
Ms Yousafzai’s parents sat in the front row of the hall holding hands and she thanked them for their unconditional love. “Thank you to my father for not clipping my wings and for letting me fly,” she said. “Thank you to my mother for inspiring me to be patient and to always speak the truth – which we strongly believe is the real message of Islam.”
Ms Yousafzai, who sparked bursts of applause as well as outbreaks of laughter during her speech, added: “I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not ...It is the story of many girls.” In his acceptance speech, Mr Satyarthi referred to rapid globalisation, high-speed internet and international flights that connect people. “But there is one serious disconnect. It is a lack of compassion,” he said, urging the audience to “globalise compassion”, starting with children.
As Ms Yousafzai received her award, a young man ran on to the stage waving a Mexican flag that he had apparently smuggled into the heavily guarded ceremony. He was whisked away by a guard.
The other awards – in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature – were presented in Stockholm yesterday. The ceremonies are always held on 10 December, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.