(CNN) — The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai for their struggle against the suppression of young people’s and children’s right to education.
Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said, “Children must go to school, not be financially exploited.”
Yousafzai came to global attention after she was shot in the head by the Taliban — two years ago Thursday — for her efforts to promote education for girls. Since then, after recovering from surgery, she has taken her campaign to the world stage.
Through the teenager’s heroic struggle, she has become a leading spokesperson for girls’ rights to education, said Jagland.
According to the Nobel committee, at 17 she’s the youngest ever peace prize winner. The youngest winner before her was 32 years old.
Meanwhile, Satyarthi, age 60, has shown great personal courage in heading peaceful demonstrations focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain, the committee said.
“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,” it said.
“It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.”
Nigel Chapman, chief executive of aid organization Plan International, welcomed the award, saying it brought a “fantastic glow” to the heart.
“I think anybody who’s interested in campaigning for children’s rights is absolutely thrilled by this news,” he said, speaking to CNN from New York.
“It’s often hard to get these issues at the top of the agenda and the fact that these two really important figures have been honored today is terrific news.”
He said it was also a great boost for campaigners on the eve of International Day of the Girl.
Yousafzai was among the favorites for the prize last year, which instead to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for its longstanding efforts to “do away with a whole category of weapons of mass destruction.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee received a record 278 nominations for the 2014 prize, 47 of which were for organizations.
Each prize carries with it a monetary reward of 8 million Swedish kronor (about $1.1 million) to be divided among the winners.