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Samra Zafar

Award-Winning International Speaker, Human Rights Activist, Scholar, Author and Social Entrepreneur

Samra Zafar is an award-winning international speaker, author, scholar, and social entrepreneur. Samra engages audiences around the world, speaking about authentic leadership, resilience, human rights, and youth empowerment.

 

After escaping a decade of abuse living as a child bride in Canada, she pursued her education as a single mother working multiple jobs and completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Economics from the University of Toronto with the highest distinction, winning over a dozen awards and scholarships.

She was named the top student in Economics and was the recipient of the most prestigious John H Moss Award, a $17k scholarship awarded to the single most outstanding student across the University’s three campuses.

The recognition and achievements prompted Samra to share her story to empower women to pursue their dreams and independence; and also start Brave Beginnings, a non-profit organization to mentor abuse survivors in their journey to build a life of freedom. Samra has been a mentor to dozens of women over the course of her career in their journey to pursue their dreams and goals. Her mentoring work has earned her many awards, including the 2018 Ascend Canada Mentor of The Year Award.

In 2017, Samra’s article about her personal experience with abuse for Toronto Life became the most-read article in 2017, and was shared widely across the world, with readership in the hundreds of thousands. The article also earned her a National Magazine Award nomination in the personal journalism category. The same year, her Yahoo video reached 12 million views worldwide. Her 2017 TEDx talk was named an all-time top 12 talk on gender-based violence.

In March 2019, HarperCollins published Samra’s memoir  A Good Wife: Escaping The Life I Never Chose, which became an instant bestseller, and earned a spot on national bestseller lists for 12 consecutive weeks. The book will soon be published internationally by Penguin Random House, and has been optioned by Canadian Producers Pier 21  to be adapted to a television film series for Canada and worldwide.

Samra is one of the youngest alumni serving as a Governor for the University of Toronto, and is a 2019 DiverseCity Fellow for Civic Action.  She has received numerous major awards for her work, including the 2019 Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award.

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Presentations

  • HOW AUTHENTICITY CREATES RESILIENT LEADERSHIP

    In our lives, workplaces, and communities, too often we find ourselves struggling to present a “perfect” self, battling imposter syndrome, dismissing accomplishments, and walking around in a prison of judgment with others holding the key. Samra explores, however, that when we embrace our vulnerabilities and show up authentically, we foster genuine trust, real connections, and collective resilience. This unlocks new potential and helps us become remarkable leaders.

  • HOW INCLUSIVE WORKPLACES CAN HELP CHANGE THE OUTCOME

    1 in 3 women in North America suffer from abuse. 1 in 5 people in Canada experience mental health challenges. And, all of us will lose a loved one at some point. Yet, many of these issues still aren’t spoken about openly at work. What can workplaces do to foster an environment where employees feel safe to show up authentically and ask for help without fear of judgment? By building inclusive, empathetic workplaces, we can create collective resilience where everyone wins.

  • BREAKING THE SILENCE ON HONOUR-BASED ABUSE

    Honour-based, structural abuse creates a vicious cycle of mental, emotional, psychological, sexual, physical, and societal violence. Yet, it remains almost invisible, hidden behind closed doors. Samra asks: What can we as leaders, individuals, and community members do to break the silence? Samra explores the intersectionality of abuse and culture, generational cycles of oppression, and educating youth on how to identify gender-based violence.

  • THE GIFT OF ADVERSITY

    As a child bride forced into marriage and subjected to years of abuse, Samra’s story shows how she moved from a place of hopelessness to a place of freedom – for both her and her daughters. As she shares her story of pain and despair, and then happiness and self-love, Samra talks about the gift of adversity and how it helps us cultivate a deep gratitude for life. We have the power to let our experiences shape us into “bitter” or “better”. The choice is ours to make.

  • EDUCATION TO EMPOWERMENT

    Education is a right, yet for many people around the world, it’s a privilege that’s often denied. Using her personal story as an example, Samra explores how education can help people escape adversity and create new fulfilling lives based on empowerment, respect, and equity. Her experiences also illustrate that continuous learning expands our minds, connects us through mutual purpose and values, and unlocks our individual and collective potential.

  • INSPIRING YOUTH TO BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES

    When youth are inspired to believe in themselves and go for their dreams, the possibilities are endless. When speaking with young audiences, Samra encourages youth to find their purpose, overcome adversity one day at a time, and develop a mindset that every problem has a solution. She asks them to believe in their power, be their own true self, demand respect, speak up, pay it forward, and help pave a path for others. The power to live the life we want comes from within.

HOW AUTHENTICITY CREATES RESILIENT LEADERSHIP

In our lives, workplaces, and communities, too often we find ourselves struggling to present a “perfect” self, battling imposter syndrome, dismissing accomplishments, and walking around in a prison of judgment with others holding the key. Samra explores, however, that when we embrace our vulnerabilities and show up authentically, we foster genuine trust, real connections, and collective resilience. This unlocks new potential and helps us become remarkable leaders.

HOW INCLUSIVE WORKPLACES CAN HELP CHANGE THE OUTCOME

1 in 3 women in North America suffer from abuse. 1 in 5 people in Canada experience mental health challenges. And, all of us will lose a loved one at some point. Yet, many of these issues still aren’t spoken about openly at work. What can workplaces do to foster an environment where employees feel safe to show up authentically and ask for help without fear of judgment? By building inclusive, empathetic workplaces, we can create collective resilience where everyone wins.

BREAKING THE SILENCE ON HONOUR-BASED ABUSE

Honour-based, structural abuse creates a vicious cycle of mental, emotional, psychological, sexual, physical, and societal violence. Yet, it remains almost invisible, hidden behind closed doors. Samra asks: What can we as leaders, individuals, and community members do to break the silence? Samra explores the intersectionality of abuse and culture, generational cycles of oppression, and educating youth on how to identify gender-based violence.

THE GIFT OF ADVERSITY

As a child bride forced into marriage and subjected to years of abuse, Samra’s story shows how she moved from a place of hopelessness to a place of freedom – for both her and her daughters. As she shares her story of pain and despair, and then happiness and self-love, Samra talks about the gift of adversity and how it helps us cultivate a deep gratitude for life. We have the power to let our experiences shape us into “bitter” or “better”. The choice is ours to make.

EDUCATION TO EMPOWERMENT

Education is a right, yet for many people around the world, it’s a privilege that’s often denied. Using her personal story as an example, Samra explores how education can help people escape adversity and create new fulfilling lives based on empowerment, respect, and equity. Her experiences also illustrate that continuous learning expands our minds, connects us through mutual purpose and values, and unlocks our individual and collective potential.

INSPIRING YOUTH TO BELIEVE IN THEMSELVES

When youth are inspired to believe in themselves and go for their dreams, the possibilities are endless. When speaking with young audiences, Samra encourages youth to find their purpose, overcome adversity one day at a time, and develop a mindset that every problem has a solution. She asks them to believe in their power, be their own true self, demand respect, speak up, pay it forward, and help pave a path for others. The power to live the life we want comes from within.

Additional Media

Toronto Life – The Good Wife (Republished and Translated Across the Globe)

Yahoo Canada – Samra Zafar: This is the face of a woman who survived an abusive marriage at 16

Global News – feature on “Making a Difference”

CTV’s “The Social” – How one woman used education to escape an abusive arranged marriage

Craig Kielburger

Co-Founder of the WE Organizations, Social Entrepreneur, Humanitarian, New York Times Best-Selling Author

Amanda Jetté Knox

National Bestselling Author, Award-winning Writer, Human Rights Advocate, Bilingual

Josh Dueck

Paralympic Champion, Adventurer, Peer Mentor, Coach

Jon Montgomery

Olympic Gold Medalist, Host of The Amazing Race Canada

Craig & Marc Kielburger

Co-Founders of WE Charity, WE Day and Me to WE, Activists, Authors

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