Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India on Wednesday received the Nobel Peace Prize for risking their lives to fight for working to protect children from slavery, extremism and child labor at great risk to their own lives.
The 17-year-old Malala, the youngest ever Nobel winner, and Satyarthi, 60, collected the award at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital to a standing ovation.
"I feel that it's not just me receiving the award," Malala said. "It's all these girls, this young generation, they have been working so hard, and it's their voice that I would be raising in my speech today."
Saying that all children have a right to childhood and education, Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said "this world conscience can find no better expression" than through this year's winners.
In his speech to the gathering before Norwegian royalty, Jagland related how Malala was shot in the head and critically wounded by a Taliban gunman two years ago.
He said Islamic extremist groups dislike knowledge because it is a condition for freedom.
"Attendance at school, especially by girls, deprives such forces from power," he said.
He mentioned Satyarthi's vision of ending child labor and how he abandoned a career as an electrical engineer in 1980 to fight for that vision, and singled out another Indian, Mahatma Gandhi, who remains the most notable omission in the 113-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Jagland said that the prize winners live according to Gandhi's principle: "There are many purposes I would have died for. There are no purposes I would have killed for."
As Malala was receiving her award, a young man briefly ran on the stage but was whisked off quickly by a security guard. Earlier, he had shaken Malala's hand in the Grand Hotel where she was staying, telling her how much he admired her.
When talking about home, about Pakistan, this child of steel melted — a bit. It was as if all the excitement about the Nobels, all the interviews, all the banquets just faded for a moment as she described her pride in being Pakistsani and what the award would mean for people back home.
"There was a time this region of the world was called a terrorist place, and many people get scared of it. No one even tried to say the name of this country," she said. "So I am really proud to tell people that the people of Pakistan are peaceful, they have harmony, they love each other, they believe in brotherhood.
"But there are some extremist-minded people who misuse the name of Islam and who give a bad name of our country," she said. "But that's not true. Many people are standing up for children's rights, woman's rights and for human rights."
The founder of the Nobel Prizes, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, said the prize should go to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
The committee has interpreted those instructions differently over time, widening the concept of peace work to include efforts to improve human rights, fight poverty and clean up the environment.
By honoring this year's winners, the Norwegian Nobel Committee linked the peace award to conflicts between world religions and neighboring nuclear powers as well as drawing attention to children's rights.
The other awards — in medicine, physics, chemistry and literature — are set to be presented in Stockholm later Wednesday. The ceremonies are always held on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.