STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Two people won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. One is world-renowned. And the other, until now, was obscure. We'll hear more about him in a moment. First, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan is one of the recipients. She was shot in the head two years ago by Taliban militants. She was demanding education for girls at the time. She survived, became a symbol of courage and women's rights and spoke last year at the United Nations.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
MALALA YOUSAFZAI: The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this - weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.
INSKEEP: She's almost 17 years old - the youngest-ever recipient of any Nobel Prize. Both the Nobel Peace Prize winners are from South Asia. And NPR's Philip Reeves, who's covered that region for many years, is on the line to talk with us about them. Hi, Phil.
PHILIPS REEVES, BYLINE: Hi.
INSKEEP: You know, I got to mention about Malala Yousafzai. Many people have stood up to extremists. And many have also been attacked or shot. What is it about her story that has so captured people's imagination?
REEVES: Well, actually, her campaigning for the rights of girls to be educated goes back to before the day that she was shot to when she was a small kid of around 12 - about five years ago, in other words. And that's when the Taliban took over her valley, which is Swat in northwest Pakistan. And she began writing an anonymous blog for the Urdu language service of the British broadcast, or the BBC, about what it was like being kept out of school. And so she started becoming prominent in Pakistan after that and was actually honored by winning a big national prize there.
But the international fame flowed almost immediately after she was shot. That was two years ago. She was on her way home from school when the Taliban attacked her and seriously injured her. She was moved with her family to Britain where she recovered amazingly and carried on her campaign, you know, setting up a big fund in her name, working with United Nations' global campaign for education for all. And many other things.
INSKEEP: So it was the cause she associated herself with. Now, let me just ask about the other Nobel Prize winner, Kailash Satyarthi of India. Who is he?
REEVES: Well, he's 60. And he's pretty much spent an entire life campaigning against the exploitation of children for financial gain such as child labor, child trafficking and so on. He - I mean, he's credited with freeing tens of thousands of children from various types of servitude and helping with their rehabilitation.
He's also helped influence legislation protecting kids in various parts of the world. And his many achievements actually include the establishment of an organization which was originally called Rugmark. This is because children in various parts of the world are used to weave rugs. His organization is a certification system for these rugs. In other words, a rug would carry a label guaranteeing that no child was involved in their manufacture. And Satyarthi's really the moving force behind that.
INSKEEP: Getting into the details of fighting child labor. Now let me just ask you, Phil Reeves, why would the Nobel Committee choose these two particular figures, put them together in the same year for the Nobel Peace Prize?
REEVES: Well, I think they seem to be sending a message that goes beyond children's rights. Malala, as you know, is from Pakistan. Satyarthi's an Indian. The conflict between India and Pakistan goes back to the founding of Pakistan in 1947 with the partition of the subcontinent. And that conflict's still simmering away. And the committee sees the work of Malala and Satyarthi as an example of the importance of unifying in a common cause. And it states this actually, explicitly. Announcing the award, it says that the Nobel 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.
INSKEEP: OK, thanks very much. That's NPR's Philip Reeves. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.