Samra Zafar

Samra Zafar

Human Rights Activist | Social Entrepreneur | Bestselling Author

After escaping a decade of abuse living as a child bride in a forced marriage in Canada, and sharing her story, Samra Zafar became a beacon of hope for many people facing exclusion, abuse, and gender-based violence. Now an award-winning international speaker, author, scholar, and social entrepreneur, she engages audiences around the world, speaking about collective resilience, authentic leadership, inclusive workplaces, youth, human rights, mental health, and more.

In 2017, Zafar wrote an article about her personal experience with abuse for Toronto Life, which became the most-read article in Canada that year. In the same year, she delivered a TEDx talk on the topic, which was named an all-time top 10 talk on gender-based violence. Zafar’s work has since been featured on CTV, CBC, Global News, Yahoo, Canadian Immigrant Magazine, and more, and she’s delivered talks for Yale University, Amnesty International, ME to WE, Women’s Business Network, and others. She recently published her first book, A Good Wife, which was named a top read by The Washington Post.

Zafar is also the founder of Brave Beginnings, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting abuse survivors in their journey to build a life of freedom. Her passion is to motivate and empower all people to believe in themselves — no matter their circumstances.

Zafar graduated from the University of Toronto with a master’s degree in economics, earning herself the highest distinction and over a dozen awards and scholarships. Today, she is one of the youngest alumni serving as a Governor for the University of Toronto.


Authenticity as a Path to Resilience and 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 Zafar 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

One in three women in North America suffer from abuse. One in five 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.

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 Zafar 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.

The Gift of Adversity

As a child bride forced into marriage and subjected to years of abuse, Samra Zafar’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, Zafar 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.

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 Zafar 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.

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 Zafar asks: What can we as leaders, individuals, and community members do to break the silence? Zafar explores the intersectionality of abuse and culture, generational cycles of oppression, and educating youth on how to identify gender-based violence.