Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2021

Title:Rhodes Scholar for Pakistan advocates for inclusivity and layered policy-making perspectives

Author: Kate Colwell (G'20)
Date Published: May 27, 2021
Khansa Maria
Khansa Maria has earned honors during her time at GU-Q. She and her project partner won a research grant for “Humanizing Resources: Analyzing Employment Opportunities for the Disabled in Qatar,” and she and her teammate dominated the nation’s debate circuit for two years in a row.

Khansa Maria (SFS’21), an international politics major at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), recently won a Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. She has led research and advocacy projects to expand opportunities for people with disabilities, and plans to work in disability policy.

As a person who is blind, what has been your experience with remote learning?

In terms of the pandemic, I think we’ve adapted really well. Every- one’s been concerned about making sure that the accommodations transition nicely from an in-person environment to a virtual environment. For instance, in my economics class, the professors make sure that I have accessible graphs and tactile images.

But it’s been a little disorienting. It’s easy to get lost in these Zoom presentations, especially when you don’t know what’s happening on the shared screen. You need to keep track of the raised hand and the chatbox with your screen reader, and at the same time, you have to listen to the instructor and the environment around you.

Why did you choose Georgetown for your undergraduate degree?

The Georgetown-Qatar community is structured to be like a very small community. I get to build my own network, but I also get to learn from everyone around me. And more than anything, I think Georgetown is very generous with financial aid. That was a huge attraction as well.

What are you most looking forward to at Oxford?

I’m excited to interact with my peers in the Rhodes Scholarship program because they’re from different parts of the world and they’ve already made contributions in their communities. I look forward to engaging with this very specific program because I want to go into disability-related policy.

After Oxford, you plan to do policy work in your home country of Pakistan. What issues energize you the most?

My two main areas of interest are inclusive employment and inclusive education, which I feel go hand-in-hand. For the kind of jobs that exist in today’s market, it really matters what skills you have, where you’ve studied, what you’ve learned, and what you make of what you’ve learned. I think one of the biggest reasons why a lot of the blind community is unemployed is that people don’t have the right background, be it vocational training or mainstream education. Whatever it is that they want, I don’t think they have equal access to it. And even if they do have access, it’s in segregated spaces, with very specific things that they’re supposed to learn and very specific fields that they’re supposed to enter, for example teaching at a blind school. I’d like to change that.

You’ve said you are interested in how cross-sectional identities interact and affect international relations. What identities have shaped your perspectives?

Your different identities teach you different things. For instance, I am a woman, and I am also a person from South Asia, who is brown. I’m also a Muslim, and I also have a disability. I think all that shapes my perspective on discrimination, activism, and empowerment. I’m able to see the world through the multiple layers of my experience.

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