Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai – an Indo-Pak, Hindu-Muslim ‘champions of peace’ – today received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 for their pioneering work on promoting child rights in the troubled sub-continent, as they made an impassioned plea to globalise compassion.
“Satyarthi and Yousafzai are precisely the people whom Alfred Nobel in his will calls ‘champions of peace’,” Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjorn Jagland said in his speech before awarding them the prestigious prize here.
“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. Fraternity between the nations!,” he added.
Satyarthi, who gave up his job as an electrical engineer to run an NGO for rescuing children from forced labour and trafficking, said: “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.”
“I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be… stronger than the quest for freedom,” said 60-year-old Satyarthi, who asked the audience to feel the child inside them and globalise compassion.
The audience included King Harald V of Norway and Pakistan’s former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
“Let us inculcate and transform the individuals’ compassion into a global movement. Let us globalise compassion. Not passive compassion, but transformative compassion that leads to justice, equality, and freedom,” Satyarthi said after receiving the award here at ornete Oslo City Hall.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, he said, “If we are to teach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with the children.” ‘I humbly add, let us unite the world through the compassion for our children.’
“I represent here the sound of silence. The cry of innocence. And, the face of invisibility. I have come here to share the voices and dreams of our children, our children, because they are all our children,” he said, adding that the crime against children has no place in a civilised society.
Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement) prides itself on liberating over 80,000 children from bonded labour in factories and workshops across India.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) there are about 168 million child labourers globally. There are roughly 60 million child labourers in India alone.
Satyarthi and 17-year-old Malala, who survived a near-fatal Taliban attack two years ago with determination advocating education for girls, were named by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for the prestigious award on October 10.
They received the Nobel medal which is 18 carat green gold plated with 24 carat gold and weighs around 175 grams. They will share USD 1.1 million prize money.
Malala, who was nominated in the peace prize category last year also, became the youngest ever Nobel laureate.
In her speech, she said, “I am honoured to receive this award together with Kailash Satyarthi, who has been a champion of children’s rights for a long time. Twice as long, in fact, than I have been alive. I am also glad that we can stand together and show the world that an Indian and a Pakistani can be united in peace and together work for children’s rights.”
“This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change,” she said in her acceptance speech.
“I am here to stand up for their rights, raise their voice…it is not time to pity them. It is time to take action so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education,” she said.
Recalling her speech at the UN, she said “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
She dedicated the Nobel Prize money to the Malala Fund, to help give girls everywhere a quality education.
“The first place this funding will go is where my heart is, to build schools in Pakistanâ€”especially in my home of Swat and Shangla,” she said.
She said Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Aung San Suu Kyi once stood on the same stage and hoped the steps that Satyarti and she has taken so far will also bring change â€“ lasting change.
“It is not time to tell the leaders to realise how important education is – they already know it – their own children are in good schools. Now it is time to call them to take action. We ask the world leaders to unite and make education their top priority,” she added.
Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Jagland said that violence and repression cannot be justified in any religion. “Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism protect life and cannot be used to take lives,” he said.
Echoing his views, Satyarthi said, “All the great religions tell us to care for children. Jesus said: ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to them.’ The Holy Quran says: ‘Kill not your children because of poverty.’
“I refuse to accept that all the temples and mosques and churches and prayer houses have no place for the dreams of our children,” he said.
“I challenge the passivity and pessimism surrounding our children. I challenge this culture of silence, this culture of neutrality,” he said and called upon all the governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses, faith leaders, the civil society, and everyone to put an end to all forms of violence against children.
“Today, I see thousands of Mahatma Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, and Nelson Mandelas marching forward and calling on us. The boys and girls have joined. I have joined in. We ask you to join too,” he added.