It is a matter of pride that two people from the Indian subcontinent—Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India—have won this year’s Nobel prize for peace. For both the 17-year-old girl, who was shot by the Taliban in Pakistan two years ago for advocating the right of girls to education, and the 60-year-old electrical engineer who has made it his life’s mission to remove the varied factors, including poverty, which militate against children’s education, the award is an international recognition of their bold endeavours.
It isn’t impossible that the threat to Malala may intensify following the renewed attention which her cause will receive because of the prize. Unlike Satyarthi, who is battling against obstacles like poverty that force parents to send their children to work, even unwillingly, to augment the family’s meagre income, or the rapacity of employers ready to exploit the fact that children provide the cheapest options, Malala faces the psychopathic objection to education, especially for girls, of fundamentalist groups that regard it as their religious duty to subjugate women and are even prepared to kill girls if they go to school.
It is beyond doubt, however, that the prize will embolden more women as well as men activists in Pakistan and other Islamic nations, where traditionalists believe the place of women is in the kitchen, to come out more openly to campaign both for women’s rights in general, and the rights of girls to study in particular, in order to persuade the society and government to stand up against the bigots. In India, too, there are conservative elements who frown on education for girls and want them to be married off quickly so that they remain engaged in household work. The prize received by Satyarthi is expected to create awareness against such a social outlook and help in reducing the 60 million child labourers in India.