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Nobel Peace Prize Winners Share Connection In Advocating For Children

Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India have been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A Pakistani schoolgirl has become the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai shared the prize today with an Indian child rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi. The Nobel committee cited the two winners' struggle against suppression and for the rights of children. From Mumbai, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Announcing the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee uniquely united India and Pakistan, who have fought three wars and who this week exchanged heavy fire described as the worst in years. The Nobel Committee seemed determined that the two rivals focus on a collective challenge.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

THORBJORN JAGLAND: The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.

MCCARTHY: Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said the Indian Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi had shown great personal courage with protests against child labor and globalization in the manner of Mahatma Gandhi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JAGLAND: All peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.

MCCARTHY: The Committee then acknowledged Malala Yousafzai, the teenager shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban almost two years ago to the day. After a torturous recovery, Malala memorably said one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world. The Nobel Committee found that promise in the young schoolgirl herself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JAGLAND: Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances.

MCCARTHY: In Paris, the director general of UNESCO Irina Bokova, told NPR she has worked with both Nobel winners. She called today's award a Nobel for peace, education and rights of children in the form of two activists.

IRINA BOKOVA: One is this brave young girl who was resisting the extremists, the Talibans, and giving hope, courage and strength to so many other girls in the world. On the other side, we see also a great campaigner passing a message that the place of children is in school. It is not in working in the most difficult conditions. It is not going to fetch water. The place is in school.

MCCARTHY: In India, children as young as five are working. A U.S. Department of Labor report estimates that some 5 million children between the ages of five and 14 are toiling in fields or factories or on the streets. Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi has rescued tens of thousands of children from commercial exploitation. And today, he told the Indian news channel NDTV that crimes against children are a global phenomenon.

(SOUNDBITE OF NDTV INTERVIEW)

KAILASH SATYARTHI: Trafficking is the third largest illicit trade in the world, after small arms and drugs, particularly trafficking of children. I've rescued some children who were bought and sold in lesser prices than animals. So it's a shame on the face of humankind.

MCCARTHY: Kailash Satyarthi said he would share the proceeds from his Nobel Prize with the children for whom he has worked for more than three decades.

(SOUNDBITE OF NDTV INTERVIEW)

SATYARTHI: It's a big recognition to all those children who are largely neglected and ignored and remain unnoticed. So it's an honor for them also.

MCCARTHY: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the entire nation was proud of what he called Satyarthi's momentous achievement. As for Malala, Modi said her life is a journey of immense grit and encourage. Malala Yousafzai was in chemistry class in England when she got news she had won the Nobel Prize. She said she was honored to share the award and the 1.1 million dollar prize with India's Satyarthi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: It gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India and between different religions, and we both support each other.

MCCARTHY: The young ambassador for child rights invited Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and India's Narendra Modi to the Nobel ceremony December 10. Julia McCarthy, NPR News, Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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