Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani youth shot by the Taliban two years ago for advocating women’s education, has been jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel peace Prize.
Sharing the honour is Kailash Satyarthi, who is a life-long campaigner against child exploitation in India.
The Nobel Committee noted the importance of a Hindu and a Muslim woman, from India and Pakistan, to be united in a fight for education, particularly women’s education. The history of these two countries is rife with turmoil since the violent partition of British India in 1947 and so having two prominent female figures from these often warring countries is seen by the committee as displaying a hopeful message for the future.
The history of the Nobel Peace prize is not itself without controversy: Yasser Arafat, former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine_Liberation_Organization) was awarded the prize in 1994. His opponents called him an ‘unrepentant terrorist’, contrasting greatly with his own self-described stance as a ‘freedom fighter’.
More recently, President Obama has been criticised for not handing his award back in lights of attacking Syria and continued warfare in the Middle East. Politics students should interrogate the intent behind international accolades such as the Nobel Peace prize, and how they serve a larger political purpose. History students should note how nominations change the way certain figures are viewed, for example has Kissinger’s ‘humble’ acceptance of the Nobel Peace prize altered how he is perceived?
To return to this year’s winners, PPE and HSPS applicants should note the relevance of those awarded to international relations – and the message the Committee sends globally by nominating two women promoting education in face of great adversity.