On October 10th, 2014, the Nobel Committee announced that this year's Noble Peace Prize would be awarded to two extraordinary individuals that have dedicated their lives to fighting for the rights of others - 17-year-old girls' education activist Malala Yousafzai, and 60-year-old children's activist Kailash Satyarthi. So what inspired the two to devote their lives to these worthy causes? Read on to find out . . .
Born to a Pakistani educator and poet in Mingora, Pakistan, this youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize had an ordinary existence for the first ten years of her life. However, things began to change in 2007, when Islamic fundamentalist group, the Taliban, started to gain control of Pakistan's Swat Valley District where Mingora is located.
Things came to a head in 2008, when the fundamentalists declared that girls should not be educated and began destroying all the girls' schools in Swat Valley. Eleven-year-old Malala was so enraged that she decided to take a stance against these unfair policies. In September 2008, she went to the Pakistani city of Peshawar and gave a speech entitled "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?", in which she openly challenged the Taliban polices.
Not surprisingly, the young girl's bravery attracted worldwide attention. In early 2009, England's British Broadcasting Corporation approached Malala and asked her to blog about life and education under the rule of the Taliban. Not wanting to endanger her life, they gave her the pen name Gul Makai. The young girl agreed and began giving the world a rare glimpse into the changes in her life as well as those of others, as the Taliban began imposing a ban on every possible women's right - ranging from how they dressed in public to working outside the home to going to school and even, shopping.
Unfortunately, Malala's real name was discovered and revealed to the public in December 2009. However, that did not seem to bother the then 12-year-old. She continued to talk freely about girls' right to education. Her outspokenness was applauded by activists all over the world and in 2011, she was nominated for the International Children Peace Prize and awarded Pakistan's National Youth Prize.
This of course did not go down well with the ruling fundamentalists, who retaliated by issuing death threats against the young girl and her family. Though scared, Malala was positive that even the Taliban would not attack a 14-year-old. They were wrong!
On October 9th, 2012, she and two of her friends were shot by a member of the Taliban, as they were returning home from school. While the other two escaped with relatively minor wounds, the bullet that hit Malala's neck left her in critical condition. The young girl was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar, where a portion of her skull was removed, to alleviate the swelling in her brain. However, that was not enough and the young girl had to be flown to Birmingham, England, where she underwent several surgeries.
The close brush with death only helped make the young girl's resolve stronger. Since recovering, she has not only continued her fight for girls' education, but also, written an autobiography entitled : I am Malala: The Girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. Her bravery has inspired young men and women all over the world to stand up for what they believe is right, and made her a truly worthy recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Though not as famous as Malala, Kailash Satyarthi, the 60-year-old founder of children's advocacy group Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save the Childhood Movement, is as impressive. The activist who founded the organization in 1980, says that he first became aware of India's rampant child labor, when he was in elementary school and noticed a boy his age, fixing shoes alongside his father.
While it took him a few years to start his fight against the injustice, his organization has been extremely effective in raising awareness and convincing officials to pass tougher labor laws. With 60 million young kids in India alone, still being subjected to child labor, Mr. Satyarthi's work is far from done. But this recognition will go a long way in bringing their plight to the world's attention.
Established in 1895 by Norwegian inventor Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize is an annual award that honors outstanding achievements by people all over the world. Besides, Peace, prizes are also awarded in four other categories - Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Medicine. Winners receive a medal and a sum of money - which often exceeds a million US dollars. While the money is great, it is the prestige the award brings, that winners cherish the most - for though there are plenty of other awards, it is the Nobel Prize that is the most coveted!