Nisha Rao, who hails from Karachi, is a transgender activist who pursues higher education despite being treated as an outcast by society, she recently got admission in MPhil.
Nisha Rao, a lawyer, and activist became Pakistan’s first transgender student to be admitted to an MPhil program to study law. From the University of Karachi, she will pursue an LLM degree.
Rao expressed her delight about being accepted to an MPhil program as the first transgender person. “I had been very worried for two months,” she said in an interview with Geo News. “I took the exam in June this year, but was informed just four days ago that I had gotten admission.”
The two-year LLM degree is equivalent to an MPhil degree, and it will be the first time a transgender person attempts to attain the degree. The Vice-Chancellor of KU, Professor Khalid Iraqi, told Rao that KU is the first institution in Pakistan to award an LLM degree to a transgender individual.
Due to a lack of resources, it is very difficult for transgender people to get an education in Pakistan, Rao said. In addition, she explained that the education institutes don’t admit people from her community and there is no quota system for them.
“I have paid a fee of Rs104,000 for one semester for LLM, which shows how impossible an idea it is for transgender persons — who mostly beg on the streets — to be able to pay for higher education,” she further added.
Moreover, Rao noted that she would have to spend over Rs400,000 to complete her LLM degree. Rao also bought a scooty for Rs170,000 so she could easily commute to the university.
Nisha Rao discusses the struggles faced by her community
Here is where transgender people confront their first challenge: should they beg or complete their education? Transgender people, she said, cannot decide if they want education or not because it is so costly. There are no scholarships available for transgender people either, Rao lamented.
The transgender activist clarified that she does not want a scholarship for herself. However, it would be better for universities to offer scholarships to transgender persons so they don’t have to appear in front of a crowd.
“Don’t they know what our livelihood is?” she asked, adding that while she herself is not seeking a discount on the fees, she wishes the government would grant such concessions to transgender students who are in need.
The university administration was cooperative and helpful to her, she said. They congratulated her upon her admission. When asked if she was afraid of harassment or bullying, Rao confidently answered that it depends on the individual.
“If a transgender person speaks well, puts on less make-up, walks properly, and stays confident, people won’t bother them,” she said, adding that she never encountered such problems.
Rao also became Pakistan’s first-ever transgender lawyer in 2020.
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