OSLO (AFP) – Malala Yousafzai vowed Wednesday to struggle for every child’s right to go to school as she became the youngest ever Nobel laureate, sharing the peace prize with Indian campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.
“I will continue this fight until I see every child in school,” the 17-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl told an audience in Oslo City Hall after receiving the award.
Malala became a global icon after she was shot and nearly killed by the Taliban in October 2012 for insisting that girls had a right to an education.
In a speech peppered with self-deprecating humour, she used the award ceremony to call not just for education but also for fairness and peace.
“The so-called world of adults may understand it, but we children don’t. Why is it that countries which we call ‘strong’ are so powerful in creating wars but so weak in bringing peace?” she said.
“Why is it that giving guns is so easy but giving books is so hard? Why is it that making tanks is so easy, but building schools is so difficult?”
Malala, who described herself as the “first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who still fights with her younger brothers”, triggered applause and also frequent outbursts of laughter during her speech.
But the underlying message was that a world that may soon be able to send a person to Mars still allows millions to suffer from “the very old problems of hunger, poverty, injustice and conflicts”.
Moments after Malala received the prize, a man carrying a Mexican flag walked towards her, but was caught by security. The motives of the man, who was later identified as a student and asylum seeker from Mexico, were unknown.
Before the ceremony, Malala and Satyarthi met with 7,000 Norwegian children aged between six and 14 in the heart of Oslo.
“You have given me so much energy,” Malala said.
“You might not know but there are so many girls who cannot go to school, there are so many boys who cannot go to school,” she said.
“They have never dreamed of any iPad, any PlayStation, any Xbox. The only thing that they dream of is a school, a book and a pen.”
Satyarthi, 60, was recognised by the Nobel committee for a 35-year battle to free thousands of children from virtual slave labour.
“I refuse to accept that the world is so poor when just one week of global military expenditure is enough to bring all of our children into classrooms,” he said after receiving the prize.
“I refuse to accept that the shackles of slavery can ever be… stronger than the quest for freedom.”
Malala was 15 when a Taleban gunman shot her in the head as she travelled on a school bus in response to her campaign for girls’ education.
Although she almost died, she recovered after being flown for extensive surgery in Birmingham, central England.