Nimra Chowdhry was born in Pakistan, and was raised in the Dallas Fort Worth area. She takes pride in her Pakistani and Muslim roots, though she grew up in the red-state South. Chowdhry currently specializes in policy and law and is the Reproductive Justice Fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) in Washington D.C. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and received her Bachelor’s degrees in Government and Women’s and Gender Studies in 2011. During her undergraduate academic career, Chowdhry participated in a number of organizations for social and reproductive justice. In 2015, Chowdhry received her J.D. and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Houston, where she also co-founded a chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. We had the privilege of being able to interview Nimra about her role in the NAPAWF and reproductive justice activism.
Take Root: How did you get involved with National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum?
Nimra Chowdhry: I have a background in doing reproductive justice work, and I have been really interested in working with Asian American women and girls. NAPAWF is very unique, so when I found out about them as an organization, I was very excited because they’re doing a lot work at the intersection of reproductive health, immigrant rights, and economic justice. All of those issues overlap in the framework that I really wanted to work in. I was really fortunate to be placed with NAWPAWF through my fellowship program, and that is how I ended up here.
Take Root: What does being an activist mean to you? And, more specifically, activism for reproductive justice?
Nimra Chowdhry: Being an activist, to me, is representing your view point all the time. I’m an activist not only professionally, but I am also an activist personally. So no matter what kind of space I’m in, I’m always trying to be that voice, whether I am trying to work with people across the country, or my own friends, you know? Being an activist means you’re always on alert and doing your best to represent whatever you are going for all the time. And so, that’s a very broad answer to your question, but I guess reproductive justice work means that I am looking at how communities we work with and work for are represented. What does it really mean to have access to healthcare? What does it mean to have agency and have the ability to have children, not have children, and to raise the children that you have with dignity and respect? What is the framework in which all of us operate, and how can I support others with the work that I do? So it’s not activism at the end of the day, it’s not necessarily about myself; it’s really about the community in which I live and serve.
Take Root: What can we expect from your presentation at Take Root?
Nimra Chowdhry: My main goal is to bring the voice of Asian American communities to the conversation. A lot of times our communities get left out of conversations about people of color, immigrants, and immigration. We’re not just a number; we’re not just this model minority of people who are healthy, wealthy, and wise. We want to make sure our voices are lifted up and our needs are seen, that we have a lot of challenges, and we have a lot of things to celebrate. Our panel will be looking at the intersection of identities within our communities. We’ll also have a panelist speaking on the LGBT perspective, and a panelist speaking on the Latino perspective. My take away will be talking about the challenge that Asian American communities face in Red States and how those challenges can have a negative impact on our communities and on immigration policies. I will look at what our issues are and how we can address them.
Take Root: What would be your ultimate advice for women?
Nimra Chowdhry: I’ll say take all opportunities no matter how difficult they might seem. We [women] often have this imposter syndrome. We feel like, that for some reason, we are in a space that we really shouldn’t be, because at any given point that space will be taken from us and that we don’t belong there, but we do! So I would say all opportunities that are handed to you are there for a reason, and make sure that you take them to the fullest extent.
Nimra will be speaking at #TakeRoot16 on the panel “Immigration Policy, Reproductive Justice, and Individual Identities.” We look forward to seeing her there!
*interview edited for clarity and length
Follow the links for more in our 2016 Speaker Series: