Nobel Peace Prize honors activism to empower most vulnerable children - Part 2

HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now to discuss the winners and their causes is Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of "The Dressmaker of Khair Khana" and deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations Women and Foreign Policy Program.

Gayle, this morning, when you opened up the papers, there were huge pictures of Malala and then there was mention of the other guy. So let's start talking first the work that Mr. Satyarthi's done. How significant has it been and has it changed policy in India?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, Author, Council on Foreign Relations: I think it has been very significant and very underappreciated, under-resourced and actually underseen.

I mean, you talk about somebody who saved about 80,000 children, by conservative estimates, someone who has really dedicated his career starting from the time when he, as a young person himself, saw a child who couldn't go to school and bothered to asked why. How many of us walk by kids every day who don't have the same opportunities we do and ask why it is that that happens? Not that many.

And I think what he's trying to do is really raise the voices of people who haven't been heard, haven't been seen, and really certainly haven't occupied the global stage.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And, as he's mentioned, he's starting to try to take credit, not just — I'm sorry — not take credit, but he's trying to raise awareness of all of the people that are working on this.

How significant of a problem is child labor or child trafficking around the world?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: It is completely massive in numbers and also widely under-reported. So getting a scale of a sense of how large the numbers are is actually difficult.

But about 27 percent of labor trafficking victims are said to be children, many of them girls. And he really has spoken up for people in brick kiln factories, people on the streets, people you don't see working inside factories you don't know about who are well under the age of 18, often under the age of 15, and who work for no wages, in the dark, with no access to education, with nobody watching.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Let's talk a little bit about Malala. It seems that she's applauded for her work around the world, but it gets a little bit more complicated the closer you get close to Pakistan and how the people there feel about her.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: You know, that has been discussed a lot, I think, ever since she started to blog for the BBC.

The question is, how many people, as she said, have appreciated her message. She has spoken for girls who have been denied their right to go to the classroom simply because they are girl children. And she dared to speak up in the face of violence. And she did that well before a Talib boarded her bus and shot her at close range.

That was only when the international community paid attention to her. Long before that, folks in Pakistan were talking about what it was that she was saying, which is that every child deserves a right to be in a classroom, whether they are girl or boy, regardless of where they live.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Has her plight and her unfortunate incident and the resilience from it increased the status of girls education in Pakistan?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: I think the Taliban wanted to make her a victim and instead they gave her an even louder voice.

And what she has done is use that platform, used the fact that Western media have really focused on her story, which is both tragic and an incredible story of the human spirit, to basically put a spotlight not just on her own story, but on so many girls who will never get a chance to sit in a classroom.

One in three girls will be married before the age of 18, one in nine before the age of 15. And she has really talked about child marriage as a form of violence against children, the fact that people cannot go to school simply because they're girl children as something the world shouldn't and cannot tolerate.

And I think what she has done is frame this as a security and prosperity and stability issue, as well as an issue of rights.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And why is she able to get through in such a kind of crowded media atmosphere? Why — besides just her tragedy, what is it that we find resonates with us about her message?

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: She has an incredible story and she is powerfully eloquent beyond her years.

She also is part of a medium, universe which loves mythmaking and heroism. And I think what she's done is to occupy that stage that the world has given her and say, this is not about me, this is not Malala day. This is for all the other children who won't be seen, won't be heard.

I have spent so much time in Afghanistan interviewing fathers who dare not — to send their girls to schools despite night letters, girls who dare to go school despite acid attacks, family disapproval, the threat of Taliban bombings at any given moment.

And all those folks find a champion in her. And I think that is what her so different. It's because she is the best of the human spirit and in a media era which loves mythmaking and in which she has really found a way to say, OK, you can take my story and amplify it, but I'm going to tell you what it means.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, thanks so much for your time.

GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON: Thank you.

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