Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for refusing to quit school, and Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi received their Nobel Peace Prizes on Wednesday after two days of celebration honoring their work for children’s rights.
Malala became by far the youngest laureate, widely praised for her global campaigning since she was shot in the head on her school bus in 2012. Some groups in Pakistan, however, have accused her of being a puppet of the West and violating the tenets of conservative Islam.
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“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not, ” said Malala, 17, better known by her first name, which is also the title of her book and the name of her foundation.
“It is the story of many girls, ” she said in Oslo’s ornate city hall on the anniversary of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel’s death.
Although the focus was undoubtedly on Oslo on Wednesday, Nobel Prize winners in literature, chemistry, physics, medicine and economics were gathering in Stockholm, due to receive their prizes from the King of Sweden later in the day.
Satyarthi, who is credited with saving around 80, 000 children from slave labor sometimes in violent confrontations, kept a modest profile in Oslo and even conceded to being overshadowed by Malala surrounded by admirers.
“I’ve lost two of my colleagues, ” Satyarthi said about his work. “Carrying the dead body of a colleague who is fighting for the protection of children is something I’ll never forget, even as I sit here to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Arriving in Norway with friends and young activists from Pakistan, Syria and Nigeria, Malala met thousands of children, walked the streets to greet supporters and will open an exhibit where her blood stained dress, worn when her school bus was attacked, was put on display.
“She’s very brave and tough, fighting even after the Taliban shot her in the head, ” said Andrea, 12, who was among thousands of children hoping to greet Malala in downtown Oslo.
The award could also help the Norwegian Nobel Committee repair its reputation, damaged by controversial awards in recent years to the European Union and U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I am pretty certain that I am also the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who still fights with her younger brothers, ” Malala said. “I want there to be peace everywhere, but my brothers and I are still working on that.”