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.
Malala, 17, said she was surprised when a teacher interrupted her school day with news that she had won.
“I felt more powerful and more courageous because this award is not just a piece of metal,” she said in a news conference after school. “This is really an encouragement for me to go forward and to believe in myself and know that there are people who are supporting me.”
Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman two years ago for insisting that girls as well as boys have the right to an education. Surviving several operations, she continued both her activism and her studies.
Satyarthi has worked since 1980 to end child slavery and child labor.
“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, India.
Nobel Prize 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.
“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 said.
Raised in Pakistan’s beautiful, but dangerous Swat Valley, Malala was 11 years old when she began championing girls’ education, speaking out in TV interviews. The Taliban had overrun her home town of Mingora, terrorizing residents, threatening to blow up girls’ schools, ordering female teachers and students to wear burqas, robes that cover all but the eyes.
She was critically injured on October 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. She survived through luck — the bullet did not enter her brain — and by the quick intervention of British doctors visiting Pakistan.
Flown to Britain for treatment, she underwent many surgeries but made a strong recovery. Malala now lives with her father, mother and two brothers in Birmingham, England, and has been showered with human rights prizes.
Yet her memoir, “I Am Malala,” published last year, reminded the world that she was still just a teenager — one who likes TV shows such as “Ugly Betty” and the cooking show “MasterChef,” who worries about her clothes and her hair and wishes she were taller.
Malala and Satyarthi will split the award of $1.1 million. The prize, along with Nobel awards in sciences and literature, will be handed out on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist and prize founder Alfred Nobel.