The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.
Children must go to school and not be financially exploited. In the poor countries of the world, 60% of the present population is under 25 years of age. It is a prerequisite for peaceful global development that the rights of children and young people be respected.
In conflict-ridden areas in particular, the violation of children leads to the continuation of violence from generation to generation.
Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi’s tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.
He has also contributed to the development of important international conventions on children’s rights.
Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzay has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education, and has shown by example that children and young people, too, can contribute to improving their own situations. This she has done under the most dangerous circumstances. Through her heroic struggle she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education.
At 17, Malala is the youngest recipient of the prize. The teenager was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012 for campaigning for girls’ education.
Mr Satyarthi, 60, has maintained the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and headed various forms of peaceful protests, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain.
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.
Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.
The struggle against suppression and for the rights of children and adolescents contributes to the realization of the “fraternity between nations” that Alfred Nobel mentions in his will as one of the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This year’s record number of 278 nominees included Pope Francis and Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, although the full list was kept a secret.
Many would have heard his name for the first time but Kailash Satyarthi has been a relentless crusader of child rights for years now.
His organisation New Delhi-based Bachpan Bachao Andolan has been at the head of the fight against child labour by creating domestic and international consumer resistance to products made by bonded children, as well as with direct legal and advocacy work.
Through a number of training programmes, Satyarthi also helps children sold to pay their parents’ debts to find new lives and serve as agents of prevention within their communities.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan was India’s first civil society campaign against theexploitation of children. It was set up in 1980 and to date has touched the lives of 80,000 young people.
One of the key initiatives of BBA is its Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) programme, an innovative development model to combat child labour, protect child rights and ensure access to quality education to all.
Since the model’s inception in 2001, BBA has transformed 356 villages as child friendly villages across 11 states of India, but most of the work is concentrated in Rajasthan and Jharkhand.
The children of these villages attend school, participate in bal panchayat (child governance bodies), yuwa mandals (youth groups) and mahila mandal and interact regularly with the gram panchayat.
In BMGs, BBA ensures that children up to the age of 14 have access to free, universal and quality education and schools have proper infrastructure so that girls don’t drop out.
It also works with local communities to address local traditions like child marriages that disempower girls.