Muaz Chaudhry looks to leverage data to inform policy that will empower historically disadvantaged communities.
Headshot of Muaz Chaudhry
Muaz Chaudhry

"As a gender non-conforming individual growing up in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, I've had experiences with violence and oppression," said Muaz Chaudhry (he/him, they/them). "Those experiences have fueled my passion for advocating for gender, sexual, and religious minorities traditionally underrepresented and oppressed in Pakistan.”

Chaudhry said it was not until he began pursuing his bachelor’s at the Lahore School of Economics (LSE) that he "began to feel supported as an individual and student. They allowed me to undertake the amount of research I wished to do while completing my studies, and I felt very supported by the university.”

Chaudhry's research at LSE saw him work alongside notable economic scholars and practitioners who have been published in prominent economics journals such as Quarterly Journal of Economics and Lahore Journal of Economics. Chaudhry also worked as a research and teaching associate with Moazam Mahmood, the former Director of Research for the International Labor Organization. "I worked with Mahmood on several projects, including his book No Country Left Behind–Growth, Jobs, and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa."

Chaudhry's own 2020 research paper, “An Estimation of Health Production Function in Pakistan: A District Level Case from Punjab” won the Best Research Paper Award in the World Bank’s conference in the entirety of South Asia.

Chaudhry also provided consultation to the World Bank in 2021 to form its Country Policy Framework for Pakistan for Fiscal Years 2022–26. He advocated inclusion of gender minorities to their “Girls’ and Boys’ Education” program, suggesting the name “Education for All” in Pakistan.

Chaudhry completed his bachelor’s in 2021 with a major in economics and a minor in math and statistics. He finished top of his class (out of 350 students) and was awarded a gold medal for his academic achievements.

While excelling in academics, Chaudhry also volunteered and was an activist.

Moved by his grandparents’ stories of fleeing their home and becoming refugees, Chaudhry went to Egypt for six weeks in 2018 to teach refugee school children. “I wanted to make the world just a little bit better for other refugees. I focused much of my attention on children that were gender or sexual minorities, teaching them about the importance of protecting themselves—especially in a rather conservative society.”

As an activist, Chaudhry worked with public and nongovernmental sectors in Pakistan to ensure basic freedoms and rights for gender and sexual minorities countrywide. He also was a prominent figure at the 2020 and 2021 Aurat March, Pakistan’s largest annual socio-political demonstration. “I have received death threats because of the stances I have taken," he said, "but that won’t stop me from continuing this work.”

Currently, Chaudhry is a Regional Coordinator for the Citizens Foundation, the largest educational nonprofit in Pakistan. “I work on education and healthcare issues in schools across Punjab. I always aspired to work on these issues, and I realized I wanted to strengthen my quantitative and analysis skills to better bring about significant, positive changes."

Chaudhry began researching graduate programs—with Harris already at the forefront. "I was familiar with the research of Assistant Professor Maria Angélica Bautista on state-sponsored repression of minorities. Her work on Colombia resonated deeply with me—I saw a lot of parallels here in Pakistan."

As a future policymaker, Chaudhry said he wants to create spaces for people to safely present themselves without fear of oppression. "I’m looking forward to working with influential scholars on minority policy—like Professor Bautista—and I am confident that Harris' emphasis on quantitative methods to drive policymaking will help me enact policies to do just that."

Outside of academics, Chaudhry looks forward to being involved in Harris and University of Chicago organizations and research centers, such as the University’s Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and OUTPolitik, Harris’ student organization for LGBTQ-identifying students and allies.