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.

Emotional and Mental Resiliency

Courage and confidence are not the absence of fear and self-doubt. They’re about acknowledging that we are afraid, accepting we are human, and moving forward with the faith that this too shall pass and we will be stronger for it.

In this interactive virtual presentation, Samra Zafar will share psychology-based tools and activities and personal reflections to cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness within ourselves through building emotional and mental resiliency.

Topics can include:

  • Mindfulness, self-care, and self-love.
  • Positivity in difficult times.
  • Unlocking your personal resilience.
  • Practicing active gratitude.
  • Authentic and meaningful connections.
  • Self-Awareness and self-acceptance.
  • Dealing with ambiguity.
  • Finding opportunity in adversity.
  • Tackling “what if?” thoughts.
  • The power of giving back.

The length and content of this virtual presentation can be customized to meet the needs of the client and their audience. A typical presentation includes a 45-minute keynote plus Q&A, but longer workshop sessions are also available.

Navigating Through Change

Many people have lost their loved ones, jobs and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic. Many are having to pivot their careers into different directions. It is a time of uncertainty and ambiguity. In these keynotes and workshops, Samra Zafar helps people develop insights and skills to remain steadfast during times of uncertainty, stay true to their authentic self, and create a life and career of meaning and purpose.

Sample Topics:

  • Find Your Why: Leading Purposeful Lives and Careers
  • Expand Your Network: Building Authentic Connections
  • Creating Opportunity in Adversity
  • Power of Giving Back
  • Reinvent Your Career: Manifesting Your Vision

The length and content of this virtual presentation can be customized to meet the needs of the client and their audience. A typical presentation includes a 45-minute keynote plus Q&A, but longer workshop sessions are also available.

Diversity, Inclusion and Equity

We are in a time of social awakening, where difficult but necessary conversations are shedding light on issues of systemic racism, discrimination and the everyday experiences of BIPOC and other people belonging to minority groups. There is an increasing need to listen, understand, believe and be strong allies to support equity and remove barriers to inclusion. As an immigrant child bride to Canada and an advocate for human rights and equity for over 10 years, Samra Zafar has traveled around the world to learn and work with BIPOC and minority groups—from indigenous communities in rural Saskatchewan, Black communities in Toronto, South Asian communities in Alberta, to the executive towers of Bay Street. Zafar uses her lived experiences combined with a deep understanding and education of these issues to educate, train and offer practical implementable solutions to advance equity in the most authentic way.

Topics can include:

  • Racism and Allyship
  • Understanding Intersectionality & Cultural Competency
  • Breaking Systemic Barriers to Inclusion
  • Starting from the Top: How Leaders can Advance Equity
  • Removing Unconscious Bias: Within Us and Around Us

The length and content of this virtual presentation, can be customized to meet the needs of the client and their audience. A typical presentation includes a 45-minute keynote plus Q&A, but longer workshop sessions are also available.

Family Violence and COVID-19

Domestic Violence is on the rise during COVID-19 due to numerous reasons including increased isolation and frustration, and lack of financial stability. Workplaces can play a vital role in supporting their employees to deal with and leave abuse and safeguard their mental and emotional wellbeing. Samra Zafar offers a combination of virtual keynotes and training that will include information and practical tools that workplaces can start implementing right away.

Sample Topics:

  • Supporting Employees who may be Dealing with Violence at Home
  • Family Violence and Mental Health During COVID-19
  • How Workplaces can change the outcome on Family Violence and Gender Inequality

The length and content of this virtual presentation can be customized to meet the needs of the client and their audience. A typical presentation includes a 45-minute keynote plus Q&A, but longer workshop sessions are also available.

Mental Health and The Shadow Pandemic

Mental Health is the shadow pandemic of COVID-19. Rising isolation, financial uncertainty and inadequate support systems are resulting in heightened anxiety, depression and trauma for employees and families. Samra Zafar has developed and delivered a series of virtual keynotes and workshops with the focus of providing practical and implementable positive psychology-based tips, tools and strategies to build skills for resilience and mental well-being.

Sample Topics:

  • Building Trust, Connection and Resilience through Vulnerability and Gratitude
  • Resilient Teams: Leading with Courage Through Adversity
  • Mindfulness, Self-Care & Self-Love
  • Unlocking Your Personal Resilience
  • Fostering Psychological Safety & Empathy

The length and content of this virtual presentation can be customized to meet the needs of the client and their audience. A typical presentation includes a 45-minute keynote plus Q&A, but longer workshop sessions are also available.

Educating & Parenting Through Difficult Times

How can we help our children cope with trauma? What skills can we instill in our youth to help them develop emotional and mental resilience? How can adults practice self-care and role model positive behaviours? Samra Zafar uses her experiences of parenting a teen through mental health struggles, training educators across the country, as well as practices, resources and tools based on positive psychology to help parents build gratitude, resilience and grit in their children and youth.

Sample Topics:

  • Parenting through and after Trauma
  • Helping Youth Cope through Uncertainty
  • Finding Opportunity in Adversity
  • Psychological Safety & Empathy
  • Holding Space for Others

The length and content of this virtual presentation can be customized to meet the needs of the client and their audience. A typical presentation includes a 45-minute keynote plus Q&A, but longer workshop sessions are also available.