The United Nations has lauded the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two human rights activists, saying the winners had received well-deserved recognition for championing children’s rights around the world.
Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, an ardent campaigner for a girl’s right to an education, and India’s Kailash Satyarthi, an activist fighting child labour, are the joint recipients of this year’s prize.
Announcing the decision in Oslo, Norway, the Nobel judges cited the winners’ “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”
In a statement, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Malala’s resilience in confronting extremists who sought to keep young girls out of school with “courage and determination,” adding that she had shown what terrorists fear most – “a girl with a book.”
“Malala is a brave and gentle advocate of peace who through the simple act of going to school became a global teacher,” the Secretary-General said. “The United Nations will continue to stand with her against extremism and for the right of girls everywhere to be free of violence, to go to school and to enjoy their right to an education.”
Yousafzai has become a regular presence at the United Nations since she was nearly killed in a targeted attack for lobbying for a girl’s right to an education. In 2013, the Secretary-General dubbed 12 July – Malala’s birthday – as “Malala Day.”
Mr. Ban reserved similar accolades for Mr. Satyarthi, whose “heroic work” had pushed the world away from denial about abusive child labour to “acknowledgement, awareness and action,” raising public awareness, mobilizing opinion leaders, and galvanizing society.
“Kailash Satyarthi has been at the forefront of a worldwide movement for justice, global education and a better life for millions of children trapped in exploitative child labour,” he stated, citing Mr. Satyarthi’s tireless “leadership, commitment and personal sacrifice over many decades.”
“He has successfully brought together the key elements for success in the fight against the worst forms of child labour – moral outrage, personal commitment, and societal engagement,” concluded Mr. Ban.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake also commented on the honor: "In a year that has seen so many crises affecting children around the world, the Nobel Committee’s decision is a welcome affirmation of the rights of every child to an education, to live free from violence, exploitation and abuse, and to be heard.
“It is a reminder of the power of the human voice – often a young voice – to change the world. So in honoring Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize, and Kailash Satyarthi, a child rights legend – we salute activists everywhere who are working to improve the lives of children. The future of these children is the future of the world.”
“Oxfam offers its heartfelt congratulations to Malala and Kailash for winning the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Oxfam International Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima. "Their fearless and tireless campaigning for education is legendary.
“Education is the most powerful weapon to fight growing inequality but in recent years donor countries have made shameful cuts in their support to education. The world must redouble its efforts to ensure every child gets to finish school.”
United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin congratulated the winners and highlighted the importance of their work: "Congratulations to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for receiving this extraordinary honor in recognition of their extraordinary efforts to promote the rights and education of children around the world.
“To end poverty, intolerance, violence, and extremism, there is no greater force than education. This award sends a powerful message that empowering and educating children, including girls, must be a top priority for the global community.
“Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi have been at the forefront of this movement. Malala Yousafzai embodies courage: In the face of grave danger, she has championed girls’ education and inspired the world to her cause. Kailash Satyarthi has been a passionate and effective advocate and leader for ending the exploitation of children and opening the doors of education. Both awardees have been important partners of the United Nations’ work to ensure education for all children.
“It is fitting that this award comes as the world recognizes International Day of the Girl tomorrow. Malala, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, is an example of the power of girls to change their communities and the world. Today all of us have the opportunity and the obligation to stand up for their rights.
“In a world filled with challenges and crises, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi are messengers of hope. They remind us that anyone can be a changemaker, and we can all play a role in building a better world.”
Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles also commented: "This is an historical day for children’s rights. Children are, as we speak, living amid war, suffering attacks on their schools and being refused education. Joint prize winner Malala represents the voices of the billions of children asking for a good education. The other joint prize winner, Indian child rights campaigner, Kaylash Satyarthi, is a bold defender of those children who are cynically abused in child labor and trafficking.
“This prize is a strong message to us all to stand up against all violence, discrimination and cruelty against children, especially those who are fighting for their rights. Their voices are crucial. This Nobel prize also makes children’s rights and children’s voices – their asking for the right to learn – echo in all corners of the world. Malala, who refused to be oppressed by extremism and discrimination, is a great source of inspiration for all children who desperately want to learn, especially girls.”