Blind Disability Rights Activist, Khansa Maria Makes It To Oxford On Rhodes Scholarship

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Khansa Maria
Image source: VOA/ Express Tribune

Hailing from Lahore, Khansa Maria was born blind and has faced a multitude of challenges growing up with a disability.

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Having had first hand experience with blind disability, Maria now advocates for the visually impaired in Georgetown’s university campus in Qatar, where she is currently enrolled.

Khansa now wants to expand her expertise and use her experience at Oxford, where she will be heading next fall as Pakistan’s 2021 Rhodes Scholar-elect. She will be pursuing a master’s degree in evidence-based policy intervention and social evaluation.

Khansa Maria
Image Source: Georgetown university

Speaking with Voice of America about giving back to the community, now that she has an opportunity, Maria said, “I do have a disability, I am blind, and I firsthand experienced the impacts of not having an inclusive society.”

Rhodes scholar
Image Source: VOA

“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 said.

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The 22-year-old won this scholarship in November last year, and is the only Pakistani recipient to receive the prestigious 2021 Rhodes Scholarship.

The Rhodes scholar dreams of an inclusive society for the visually impaired. She speaks about how growing up in Lahore she didn’t have as many opportunities as other students. But her current institute, Georgetown university follows the American with Disabilities Act that has accommodated her better than her hometown, Lahore.

Khansa Maria is more of a go-getter as she is working with the US Embassy in Qatar to initiate a dialogue around making more inclusive spaces, encouraging diversity, and promoting conversation on prevalent socio-political issues.

“Spaces are not always as physically accessible as they need to be to those with disabilities, and conversations and language about the disabled should be more inclusive,” Maria said. 

She is beyond delighted and honored to learn from the people of Oxford and use that as an opportunity to become the voice of the visually impaired in Pakistan.

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