Two 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winners were named this month. One of them, Malala Yousafzai, is the youngest winner in the history of the Peace Prize. The other winner was Kailash Satyarthi.

Yousafzai is from Pakistan and Satyarthi is from India. The fact that this year's winners are from two nations frequently at war with each other over boarder issues was not lost on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo, Norway, nor on Yousafzai and Satyarthi. The winners contacted each other after the announcement and vowed to use their influence to help build peace between their nations and to continue their advocacy for children. Sadly, during the very week of the announcement, a border clash between Pakistan and India took the lives of 20 people.


In 2012, the 15-year old Yousafzai was riding a bus when a member of the Taliban entered the bus and shot her in the head. Yousafzai had challenged the Taliban's efforts to close schools in Pakistan, including hers, for allowing girls to attend.

Satyarthi is also an advocate for children and has fought against child slavery in India for decades. India has one of the highest child labor rates in the world, especially in their cottonseed production and stone cutting industry. The lack of strong educational opportunities for children in India, especially poor children, is a major contributor to child labor there.

Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of the Peace Prize committee, hoped that as, "a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani" are named for the prize, that they would be able to "join in a common struggle for education and against extremism."

After she was shot in the head, Yousafzai was flown to London for treatment and recovered. She is currently a high school student at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, England, where, according to Declan Walsh of The New York Times, "She learned of her award on Friday when a teacher called her from a chemistry lesson."

"This award is for all those children who are voiceless, whose voices need to be heard. I speak for them, and I stand up with them" Yousafzai said after learning of her selection.

Yousafzai is an example of what one person can do to make a difference. The lack of educational opportunities for girls around the world is a global issue and places the entire world economy at risk. It also points to the real purpose of conservative groups like the Taliban and others who are threatened by the advancement of women. Their main goal is power and control, and the education and empowerment of women threatens the achievement of these goals.

Like all people who want to dominate others, their efforts reflect only their weakness. As stated so well by the United Nations Secretary General, "With her courage and determination, Malala has shown what terrorists fear most: a girl with a book."

By the way, Yousafzai also has words of advice for the West: Education, not war, will ultimately defeat terrorism around the world.

Yousafzai and Satyarthi give hope to all children and to all people who wish to improve the living conditions and educational opportunities for children around the world. They stand for equality and justice for children regardless of gender, and against extremists of all stripes who wish to control and force their beliefs on others.

It is difficult to believe that in 2014 the issues of equal access to education for girls and child slavery continue to be issues at all. It seems that the human race still has a long way to grow.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at