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By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize is shared by Pakistani girls education activist Malala Yousafzai and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel committee announced Friday. At 17, Yousafzai is the youngest winner in history.

The committee awarded them the prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Both are prominent advocates for the rights of children. Satyarthi has been fighting child labor and slavery since the 1990s.

They were chosen from a record field of 278 nominations, covering the year to February 2014.

Yousafzai was shot in the face by the Taliban in 2012 after she defied their ban on girls’ education. Four months later she declared she was not afraid of being attacked again and set up a foundation promoting girls’ education.

“I wanted to speak up for my rights and also I didn’t want my future to be just sitting in a room and be imprisoned in my four walls and just cooking and giving birth to children. I didn’t want to see my life in that way,” she said in a BBC interview last year.

“I hope that a day will come (when) the people of Pakistan will be free, they will have their rights, there will be peace and every girl and every boy will be going to school,” she said in the interview.

Since its inception in 1895, the Nobel Peace Prize has rewarded individuals and organizations who promote peace. The prize has not been awarded 19 times, including during much of the first and second world wars.

The Nobel committee has drawn criticism in the past for the striking under-representation of women among the peace prize laureates and for some controversial awards, including Barack Obama early in his first term, Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger.

Among the other favored nominees were Pope Francis; U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden; who alerted the world to the agency’s mass electronic surveillance; and Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has seen at least six of its journalists murdered in an atmosphere of increasing repression in Russia.

Other favorites included Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, who offers hope and treatment to survivors of sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; and a Japanese pacifist organization, Japanese People Who Conserve Article 9, a group opposing government steps to reinterpret a constitutional ban on the country engaging in military aggression.

The least favored on the list may have been Russian President Vladimir Putin, who annexed Crimea earlier this year and is accused of supporting pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine. Putin has also cracked down on independent media and rights activists.

The prize is often awarded to organizations. Last year the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some critics this year said no obvious candidate stood out, advocating that the committee award no prize at all. The year saw wars raging from Syria and Iraq to South Sudan, northern Nigeria and the Central African Republic, all of them notable for barbaric atrocities and killings.

AFP Photo/Peter Muhly

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