Khansa Maria is a visually impaired student and has faced disability challenges growing up in Pakistan. But now she will use that experience when she heads to Oxford University next fall as Pakistan’s 2021 Rhodes Scholar-elect. She is to pursue a master’s degree in evidence-based policy intervention and social evaluation.
Maria advocates for the disabled and educates about inclusion — whether within a friend group or a business thinking of designing its space for people with disabilities. She said she believes people should be better informed.
“I do have a disability, I am blind, and I firsthand experienced the impacts of not having an inclusive society,” Maria said, noting she wants to give back. “I do have a certain responsibility to my community to improve things to the extent that I can or at least lend my skills or my experience to the benefit of future blind people from Pakistan,” she told VOA
She attends Georgetown’s Qatar campus, called GU-Q — which follows standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, she said it accommodates the disabled better than her hometown of Lahore. However, spaces there are not always as physically accessible as they need to be to those with disabilities. Maria believes that conversations and language about the disabled should be more inclusive. At GU-Q, she is studying for a bachelor’s degree in foreign service, with a concentration in culture and politics.
Maria has been a campus leader and participant in a multitude of organizations. This includes the debating union, the South Asian Society, and the Hoya Leadership Pathway. She has also worked at the US Embassy in Qatar.
Khansa Maria to head to Oxford University in fall 2021!
Maria has also researched diaspora migration and how it is represented in literature. She is writing her honors thesis on the evolution of the disability rights movement in the South Asian context.
Maria became interested in the Rhodes program after meeting a scholar from India. He was also blind, and they became friends. She was apprehensive at first about applying but followed through.
Talking to VOA, she said that she could not believe she was selected to be a Rhodes Scholar. “I was beyond delighted but at the same time, I couldn’t believe that it had really happened,” she said. “I realized that I am privileged and am excited about all these new experiences.”
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