The Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for their respective work to further human rights – and, more specifically, children’s rights – around the world. Malala Yousafzai is a name familiar to most, at 17 years old she is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. However, at 17, she has already fled her own country for standing up to an oppressive regime, founded a charity to further education for women and girls, and written a book detailing her experiences.
Kailash Satyarthi is probably a less familiar name – which seems ridiculous when we look at, not only his accomplishments, but the list of awards he has already received. These include the Defenders of Democracy award and the Heroes Acting to End Modern Day Slavery. He is the founder of The International Center on Child Labour as well as the Bachpan Bachao Andolan – an organization that fights to save children from slavery. He is the first Indian recipient of the prize and has been working for an end to child slavery since 1980.
You might think that these are fairly straightforward choices, both undoubted humanitarians who deserve the world’s most prestigious award for peace (which cannot, incidentally, be said for all those nominated. Why was Vladimir Putin on the list? We may never know). However, the Nobel Peace Prize has, unfortunately, never been without controversy.
In this case, there have been complaints of more media attention being focused on the win of Yousafzai rather than an equal share of media coverage for both winners. However, this seems to have dissipated over the past few days and the prize has in fact brought attention to Satyarthi’s largely unsung work for putting an end to child slavery. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that when it comes to the Peace Prize it likely doesn’t matter who receives the more acclaim but that we focus on the issues that both are trying to fight, which are not worlds apart.
Much has also been made of the nationalities of the two winners. Yousafzai extended an invitation to the leaders of India and Pakistan to accompany her and Satyarthi to the awards ceremony – although both have declined to say whether they will be attending. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947 when the two countries were partitioned. The award being jointly given, therefore, could be seen as an effort to foster co-operation between the two countries. This, at best, seems slightly naïve and, at worst, a case of unwelcome Western intervention. Senior international experts have come forward to say that despite what has been made of it in the media, the Nobel Peace Prize is not going to solve this ongoing conflict. This would seem to be obvious to most, but it is easy to be carried away with the symbolism rather than focusing on the reality.
However, the award does seem to have succeeded in achieving individual co-operation, with Yousafzai and Satyarthi reportedly joining to attempt an improvement in international relations and in their causes, and really, when it comes to an award celebrating the remarkable achievements of the truly extraordinary, what more can we ask for but that we are shown the continued efforts to strive for a better world? When given deservedly, the Nobel Award shows us a vision for what our world could be and highlights the people who refuse to give up on that vision and, this year, it has done so.