Looking back at the peace-promoting work of Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi - Part 1

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now back to today's two Nobel Peace Prize winners. One's a global icon. The other is largely unknown, even in his home country.

Hari Sreenivasan has more on both of them.

THORBJOERN JAGLAND, Chairman, The Norwegian Nobel Committee: The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai.

HARI SREENIVASAN: For Malala, the announcement in Oslo, Norway, came two years and a day since a Taliban attack propelled her to prominence. She'd begun advocating education for girls at age 11.

In a 2009 documentary, New York Times correspondent Adam Ellick profiled Malala struggling in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where her school was shut down by the Taliban.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: In the world, girls are going to their schools freely. And there is no fear. But in Swat, when we go to our schools, we are very afraid of Taliban. He will kill us. He will throw acid on our face. And he can do anything.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Taliban threats turned to action on October 9, 2012, when masked gunmen boarded Malala's school bus and shot her in the head.

She was flown to Birmingham, England, for multiple operations, but she eventually made a full recovery and with her family settled there. Last month, she told the NewsHour she has no regrets about the choice she made to speak out.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: And at that time, I had really two options. One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And then the second was to speak up and then be killed. And I chose the second one, because I didn't want to face the terrorism forever.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Ironically, the attack that was meant to silence Malala thrust her into a global spotlight. In the two years since, she's campaigned for women's rights and universal access to education, penned her own memoir and created her own charity.

She also delivered an impassioned appeal to a youth assembly at the United Nations.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Today, in Pakistan, people from all walks of life celebrated news of the Peace Prize.

MALIK BASHEER MAQBOOL, President, Islamabad Traders Union (through interpreter): As Pakistanis, this is a great honor for us that a youngster, a young girl, got this award because of her bravery, because of her courage that she displayed.

ZULFIQAR SAFDAR, Lawyer (through interpreter): She can be presented to our new generation, especially women and young girls, as a beacon and an inspiration for them.

HARI SREENIVASAN:But among some Pakistanis, rumors still swirl that the attack on her life was staged and that she is a puppet of the West.

Tariq Khattak, editor of an influential Pakistani blog, gave voice to that view on the BBC NewsHour today.

TARIQ KHATTAK, Pakistani blogger: She is a girl, a normal, useless type of a girl. That's it. Whatever she says, or she has written or is something is attributed to her, it's the craftsmanship of her father or some hired professional writers. She is nothing special.

HARI SREENIVASAN: For her part, Malala appears unfazed by such criticism, as she told the NewsHour's Margaret Warner last year.

MARGARET WARNER: Some Pakistanis say you shame their country, or that you're an agent of Western interests who want to undermine Pakistan or Islam. How does that make you feel, when you're out here fighting this fight?

MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The first thing is that it's one's right to express his feeling or her feelings.

When I look at the groups that speak against me in Pakistan, or anywhere, it's a very small group, a very tiny group. I must look at the millions of people spared. I must look at the support of people who raise the banners of "I am Malala" and who are still supporting me. So I think I must not lose hope, and I must not look at the small group.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, the man who'll share the Peace Prize, Kailash Satyarthi, is far less known to the world than Malala. But he was no less overjoyed today when he got the news in New Delhi.

KAILASH SATYARTHI, Nobel Prize, Peace: It is not just an honor for me. It's an honor for all those who are fighting against child labor globally. I may not be knowing them, but there are many people who are sacrificing their time and their life for the cause of child rights. And I would like to thank and congratulate all of them, because it is symbolic for me.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Starting in 1980, the now 60-year-old Satyarthi has become a leading voice against child slavery and the exploitation of children for financial gain.

He's led peaceful demonstrations to raise awareness, and helped rescue some 75,000 child laborers. Like Malala, he too has been physically attacked for his activism.

Last year, NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro joined Satyarthi as he conducted a rescue raid for underage workers in Delhi. He lamented in an interview the status of some of his country's young.

KAILASH SATYARTHI: You can buy a child for a lesser price than an animal. The buffaloes and cows are much more expensive than buying a child to work full-time and for all of his life.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Satyarthi estimates some 60 million children across India are forced to work in unsafe conditions, including many doing so to support their impoverished families.

In choosing laureates from India and Pakistan, the Nobel committee also signaled its wish to ease longstanding tensions between the two countries.

THORBJOERN JAGLAND: The committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.

HARI SREENIVASAN: India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, and the Nobel announcement followed four days of fighting in disputed Kashmir, the worst in more than a decade.

Today, Malala said she and Satyarthi hope to promote peace between their nations by inviting their prime ministers to the Nobel awards ceremony on December 10.

Editor's Note: The following story contains an excerpt from a BBC Newshour radio program in which they identified the interview subject, Tariq Khattak, as the Editor of the Pakistan Observer. After our story ran, we were contacted by the BBC and informed that Mr. Khattak is no longer an editor with the paper. According to the BBC, he is currently the "editor of a blog with more than 27,000 followers."