MAKERS: Women who make America, Nadira Kharmai

Throughout the United States, a movement has begun towards recognizing and honoring the women who make America, or MAKERS. The MAKERS movement is a digital movement showcasing trailblazing women that you may or may not already know. The full documentary, MAKERS: Women Who Make America, airs on PBS February 26th at 8PM EST. In West Michigan, Women and Girls Lead and WGVU Engage will host a special screening and panel discussion on Tuesday, March 12 at Celebration! North honoring the 22 local women nominated.

One of the local nominees, Nadira Kharmai, CEO of Empress Productions and an inspirational local advocate for equal rights and the LGBT community, spoke with me recently on what it means to be a MAKER.

Nadira Kharmai, Empress Productions

Kristin Coppens: What does it mean to you to be a MAKER?

Nadira Kharmai: It’s an honor to be named a MAKER. Personally, I believe it means that the media I’m producing (including photo shoots through the Matthew Agency), along with the LGBT events and demonstrations are getting noticed and being recognized by other community leaders. I strive to bring people together, to build community, camaraderie, and to bring back the “sisterhood” type feel to West Michigan.

KC: How did you feel after finding out about your nomination?

NK: I was honestly surprised! To be nominated from such a great organization that’s connected with WGVU speaks volumes. I’m very blessed and humbled to know that people are paying attention to what I’m doing.

KC: Why do you think it’s important to showcase the women who make up America?

NK: It’s incredibly important to showcase our everyday female leaders because we’re a big part of what makes up this great country. This nation has come a long way from discriminating against women, but the playing field isn’t still even or fair. Highlighting strong women helps inspire others to keep pushing and challenging stereotypes. There are so many great stories out there of women who are catalysts to big movements. It’s inspiring, motivating, and encouraging. I am 110% all for anything that builds people up and educates them.

KC: How does West Michigan successfully nurture such a movement? Where can we improve?

NK: West Michigan is a wonderful place for start-ups, small businesses and definitely the media industry. There’s a great network of people here who are creative, business-minded, and centered on philanthropy and I think that drives a lot of great campaigns, ideas, products, etc. There are many other leaders who help foster community and I think that’s why it makes West Michigan unique. We have a variety of resources (GROW, AWE, Start Garden, GRYP, Local First, to name a few) that help drive the leader in all of us.

Where can we improve? Hm. I think the improvement comes from our personal involvement. I think we all could do a better job of mentorship/reverse-mentorship.

KC: What is your advice and message to the potential young MAKERS out there?

NK: Keep going. You’re going to go down, up sideways, in circles, and eventually, you’ll be on the path of success (however you choose to define that). On your journey, never be afraid to ask! Also, never be afraid to say ‘no.’ I think anyone who has a soul full of tenacity and a tough skin can serve as an inspirational leader—no matter what his or her forte may be.

How do the women in your community MAKE America?

Photo credit: Ryan P Photography

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