When Marvia Malik took the anchor chair at the Pakistani cable channel Kohenoor last Friday, it was a historic occasion. The 21-year-old recent college graduate’s first time helming a broadcast was also the first time a transgender person has ever anchored the news in Pakistan.
“I struggled very hard to get here,” Malik later told ABC News in an interview. “I didn’t have a normal childhood. I felt like an alien.”
A graduate of Punjab University, Malik worked as a model and makeup artist before getting her degree in mass media. Her managers at Kohenoor said she trained for three months before getting to anchor the broadcast. Detailing that moment to the BBC, Malik said she was so happy to get the job offer that she cried.
“The dream that I saw for myself, I was able to climb on the first stair to achieving it,” she told the British news organization.
Part of Malik’s emotional reaction might have also stemmed from the fact that Pakistan’s transgender community — like transgender people all over the world — often struggle to find meaningful, well-paid employment due to discrimination. Malik told reporters that she hoped that her high profile position will help other members of the community as Pakistanis get used to seeing a transgender person in their living rooms.
“Our community should be treated equally and there must not be any gender discrimination,” she said. “We should be given equal rights and be considered ordinary citizens, instead of third-gender.”
Since her debut as an anchor, Malik has received praise and media attention from around the world. British actor Riz Ahmed (himself of Pakistani descent) honored Malik’s accomplishment in an Instagram post.
CONGRATULATIONS TO MARVIA MALIK. IN SOME WAYS PAKISTAN HAS BEEN AHEAD OF THE CURVE IN CERTAIN ASPECTS OF TRANS RIGHTS. IN OTHER WAYS IT HAS LAGGED BEHIND. HOPING WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM EACH OTHER IN PAVING THE WAY TO GREATER INCLUSION.
A POST SHARED BY RIZ AHMED (@RIZAHMED) ON MAR 28, 2018 AT 5:55AM PDT
“Congratulations to Marvia Malik,” he wrote. “In some ways, Pakistan has been ahead of the curve in certain aspects of trans rights. In other ways, it has lagged behind. Hoping we can all learn from each other in paving the way to greater inclusion.”
Others seemed to agree with Ahmed that Malik’s increased visibility could help change perceptions of transgender people in a very conservative culture. Pakistan’s Senate is also currently considering a bill that would increase protections for the transgender community and allow them to determine their own gender, rather than forcing them to undergo a medical examination as reported by Newsweek.
As Malik herself simply yet eloquently put it, “I have become a ray of hope for the community.”