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, Samra Zafar became a beacon of hope for many people facing exclusion, abuse, and gender-based violence. Now an award-winning international speaker, bestselling 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 a most-read article in Canada. In the same year, she delivered a TEDx talk, which was named an all-time top 10 talk on gender-based violence. Since then, she has given three TEDx talks and delivered keynotes for several organizations, including Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, UNICEF, Yale University, Amnesty International, Art of Leadership, and many leading non-profits, corporations, and universities around the world.

In 2019, Zafar published her first book, A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose, which instantly became a national bestseller and named one of CBC’s Best Books of 2019 for Canadian Non-fiction. It is now being adapted into a TV series and published internationally. Zafar’s work has also been featured in global media outlets, including Washington Post, Huffington Post, National Post, CBC, The Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV, and Yahoo.

Zafar has been recognized as one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” by Women’s Executive Network, and a “Top 25 Canadian Immigrant” by RBC. She is also a celebrated ambassador for Plan International Canada and a board member for Women’s College Hospital Foundation.

A graduate of the University of Toronto with a master’s degree in economics, Zafar earned the highest distinction and more than 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.