Two countries received a pleasant surprise – of a Nobel Peace Prize – on Friday.
Both, India and Pakistan quickly celebrated the announcement of the prize shared by two people, on either sides of their shared border where military-clashes were going on for days.
Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, the advocate of girls’ right to education, and the Indian gentleman Kailash Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist being awarded 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winners together was a welcome news to the two nations.
And it gave a good reason for celebration. After all, the common enemy to both countries is really the ‘ignorance’ of people about the rights of their children.
Negligence and abuse of children has been so rampant in the Asian subcontinent that this much-needed recognition is now bound to create not just ripples of joy, but also waves of change.
The change would be in the mindsets of people, as they turn favourably towards girls’ education and against child labour.
Malala Yousafzai has become the youngest person ever, and the first Pakistani, to receive a Nobel. But more importantly, she has become a strong icon for girls who aspire for good education, and a powerful voice speaking on their behalf.
Her daring public speeches and blog posts – in support of girls’ education in Pakistan – may have angered the backward-thinking Taliban. Which is why in 2012 two Taliban gunmen stormed into her school bus, called out “Who is Malala?”, and shot her and her school-mate at point-blank range.
But her miraculous survival, and her ongoing crusade against discrimination on gender – when it comes to education – has drawn the attention of the whole world.
While Malala became famous after being shot-at two years ago, the other awardee Kailash, strangely, knew no fame at all, until two days ago.
Many did not even recognize him despite his humble and committed work for over 30 years.
In a country where small children worked with adults in hotels, garages, tea-shops, carpet factories, motorcycle mechanics, and automobile repairers, Kailash insisted that their place was in school – that they must be getting educated, not earning bread, even if parents insist they do.
In 1980, he gave up his career as a teacher and became secretary-general for the Bonded Labor Liberation Front, and founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Mission) that year.
According to the latest issue of TIME magazine, his Bachpan Bachao Andolan has, to date, rescued and rehabilitated more than 80,000 child laborers. Just last month , it rescued 24 child workers between the ages of eight and 15 from a bag and shoe making plant in New Delhi.
Needless to say, both of the awardees are so high in stature, in spite of their humble beginnings, that the entire world must really applaud them for their seriousness and commitment to their causes.
Talking to TIME after the Nobel Prize announcement, Kailash Satyarthi said he wants to work with co-recipient Malala Yousafzai to ensure child rights in India and Pakistan.
And faraway, standing on a box at Birmingham’s main library, Malala Yousafzai also urged the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the Nobel award ceremony together, in December, to see both of the awardees receive the awards.
Let us hope we will have the pleasure of seeing the two elected heads of state standing together applauding this amazing achievement by their respective citizens – as we applaud with them.