The youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, said in Oslo on Tuesday that winning the prize is not the burden that some warned it might be. Rather, she said, it provides strength, and her co-winner, Kailash Satyarthi of India, agreed.
Yousafzai and Satyarthi, speaking at the traditional press conference held the day before the Nobel Peace is awarded, joked and laughed with one another but were also serious when asked what the prize can mean for them and their work in promoting the rights of children. Satyarthi said it already had significantly raise awareness about the problem of child labour, for example, both in his native India and around the world.
“This prize is very important for the millions and millions of children who are denied their childhoods,” he said. With Yousafzai nodding alongside him, he added that “this prize is for all the girls and boys in the world.”
Asked by Norwegian news bureau NTB how she’d responded to concerns that winning a Nobel Peace Prize could be a huge burden for a 17-year-old, the young winner known mostly as “Malala” said it was not.
“I was already feeling the pressure when I first decided to work (for the rights of all children, especially girls, to go to school),” she said. “This Nobel Peace Prize isn’t more pressure, it’s strength, and encouragement.”
She added that it also gives both her and Satyarthi more hope, and can help provide a voice to many more children in the world. It lets her know, Malala said, that “I’m not alone.”
The two prize winners praised each other’s work and said they were proud to be on the winners’ podium together. There has long been hostility between their two countries, but they wish Indians and Pakistanis would work together and respect one another. “I’m so lucky to receive this prize together with her,” Satyarthi said, while Malala added that she felt “really honoured to sit here with a father who has struggled for children for so many years.” He had already joked about adopting Malala, and wishing he “could take her home with us.” Together, he said, they can make the world safer, working “for peace for children, and children for peace.”
Right after the Peace Prize was announced, Malala announced that she would like the prime ministers of both Pakistan and India to attend Wednesday’s award ceremony in Oslo. Satyarthi said there’d been no response, “so they’re probably not coming.” Malala said “it would have been a great honour” and “I would have been very happy” if they came. “Countries have borders, but there should be no hate,” she said. “We are all people, like anyone else.” Satyarthi added that for him, “the most important thing is building trust and friendship between the two countries.”
He also joked that his family and friends back home in India had seen on TV that it looked very cold in Norway. Satyarthi responded that he’d “never seen so much warmth as here in Norway,” thanking the “distinguished Nobel Committee” for a warm welcome and for helping to further their work.
“We are not here just to accept our medals and go back home,” Malala added. “We’re here to tell the children they must also get involved. Together we can really change the world.” The two winners will formally be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony inside the Oslo City Hall starting at 1pm on Wednesday.