| Tom Sullivan |
STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Malala Yousaf-zai picks up her Nobel Peace Prize this Wednesday, but the youngest ever laureate already has an even more startling memento from her young life: the blood-soaked school uniform she wore when shot by the Taleban.
The 17-year-old Pakistani known everywhere as Malala shares the peace prize with the Indian cam-paigner Kailash Satyarthi, 60, who has fought for 35 years to free thousands of children from virtual slave labour.
Their pairing has the extra sym-bolism of linking neighbouring countries that have been in conflict for decades. After being named, Malala said she hoped both states’ prime ministers would attend the prize-giving ceremony in Oslo.
Malala will be the star of the annual Nobels extravaganza, also featuring Frenchman Patrick Modi-ano with the literature prize and his compatriot Jean Tirole with the economics award.
But visitors to the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo can catch a reminder of the very different circumstances that led to Malala’s rise in the inter-national spotlight. The centre has on loan the uniform the then 15-year-old Malala was wearing in 2012 when a Taleban gunman shot her on a school bus in response to her campaign for girls’ education.
“My school uniform is very important to me… The day I was attacked I was wearing this uniform. I was fighting for my right to go to school,” she said in a statement as the uniform was handed over to the centre on Friday. “Wearing a uniform made me feel that yes, I am a student,” she said about the uniform. “It is an important part of my life. Now I want to show it to children, to people all around the world. This is my right, it is the right of every child, to go to school.”
Although Malala’s head wound was almost fatal, she recovered after being flown for extensive surgery in Birmingham and she has remained in England with her family since – continuing both her education and activism.
She is travelling to Norway with five other teenage activists from Pakistan, Syria and Nigeria, including Shazia Ramzan, 16, and Kainat Riaz, 17, also shot during the Taleban attack on Malala and 17-year-old Amina Yusuf, a girls’ education ac-tivist from northern Nigeria where the terror group Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in April 2014.
“Though I will be one girl receiving this award, I know I am not a lone voice,” Malala said in a statement on Monday. “These courageous girls are not just my friends, they are now my sisters in our campaign for education for every child.”
Malala’s co-winner Satyarthi is far less well known and said on arrival in Norway that being awarded the Nobel had hugely boosted aware-ness of millions of children in bon-ded labour. “These issues of child slavery, child marriages, child la-bour, child trafficking… were largely neglected, but now they have gained tremendous attention,” he said.
“I strongly feel that this is an ho-nour for all the children in the world and the children who are most deprived of their childhood, their education, their health, their rights and their dignity.”
Meanwhile, the Nobel prizes for literature, economics and science will be handed out in neighbouring Stockholm. French author Patrick Modiano, notoriously ill at ease with the media, has described winning the literature award for his novels set in Nazi-occupied France as a sur-real experience. “I was surprised. It was like I was split in two and was observing what was happening to me,” the 69-year-old told reporters in Stockholm on Saturday, adding that he was gradually getting used to “these astounding events”.