The 17-year-old Pakistani known everywhere as Malala shares the peace prize with the Indian campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, 60, who has fought for 35 years to free thousands of children from virtual slave labour.
Their pairing has the extra symbolism 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 Modiano 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 international spotlight.
The center has on loan the uniform the then 15-year-old Malala was wearing in 2012 when a Taliban 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.
Co-winner Satyarthi is far less well known and said on arrival in Norway that being awarded the Nobel had hugely boosted awareness of millions of children in bonded labour.
“These issues of child slavery, child marriages, child labour, child trafficking… were largely neglected, but now they have gained tremendous attention,” he said.
“I strongly feel that this is an honour 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.”
– French pride –
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 surreal 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”.
Fellow Frenchman, 61-year-old economist Jean Tirole, from the Toulouse School of Economics, is being honoured for his work on reining in corporate giants.
The announcement in October gave French Prime Minister Manuel Valls a chance to hit back at critics of France’s sluggish economy, tweeting, “talk about thumbing your nose at French bashing”.
The science prizes are traditionally dominated by US researchers, but this year saw non US-based winners on top.
Japanese researchers Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, along with US-based but Japanese-born Shuji Nakamura, won the physics prize for inventing blue light emitting diodes (LEDs).
British-American researcher John O’Keefe will pick up the medicine prize with Norwegian couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser for discovering an “inner GPS” that helps the brain navigate.
Eric Betzig and William Moerner of the United States and German-based Stefan Hell will be awarded the chemistry prize for laying the foundations of ultra powerful microscopes.
Nobel winners take home eight million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, 862,000 euros), which is shared in the case of joint wins.