OSLO, Norway (AP) — Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel winner ever as she and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labor at great risk to their own lives.
By honoring a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan and a 60-year-old Hindu man from India, the Norwegian Nobel Committee linked the peace award to conflicts between world religions and neighboring nuclear powers as well as drawing attention to children’s rights.
“Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here. A lot of work still remains but I will see the end of child labor in my lifetime,” Satyarthi told The Associated Press at his office in New Delhi.
Since 1980, Satyarthi has been at the forefront of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labor, which he called a “blot on humanity.”
News of the award set off celebrations on the streets of Mingora, Malala’s hometown in Pakistan’s volatile Swat Valley, with residents greeting each other and distributing sweets. At the town’s Khushal Public School, which is owned by Malala’s father, students danced in celebration Friday, jumping up and down.
When she was a student there, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations with the help of British medical care, she continued both her activism and her studies.
Appropriately, Malala was at school Friday in the central English city of Birmingham when the Nobel was announced and remained with her classmates at the Edgbaston High School for girls. She was expected to make a statement later in the day.
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, said the decision will further the rights of girls.
“(The Nobel will) boost the courage of Malala and enhance her capability to work for the cause of girls’ education,” he told the AP.
Malala is by far the youngest Nobel laureate, eight years younger than 1915 physics prize winner Lawrence Bragg, who was 25 when he won. Before Malala, the youngest peace prize winner was 2011 co-winner Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, a women’s rights activist who was 32.
Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said it was important to reward both an Indian Hindu and a Pakistani Muslim for their common struggle for education and against extremism. The two will split the Nobel award of $1.1 million.
“There is a lot of extremism coming from this part of the world. It is partly coming from the fact that young people don’t have a future. They don’t have education. They don’t have a job,” Jagland told the AP.
Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the decision “has given pride to the whole of Pakistan.” India’s President Pranab Mukherjee said the prize recognized “the contributions of India’s vibrant civil society in addressing complex social problems such as child labor.”
The Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics and literature were announced earlier this week. The economics award will be announced on Monday.
All awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896.