Samra Zafar

Samra Zafar

Human Rights Activist | Social Entrepreneur | Bestselling Author

After escaping a decade of abuse living as a child bride in Canada, Samra Zafar has became a beacon of hope for many people facing exclusion, abuse, and gender-based violence. Now an award-winning international speaker, bestselling author, and social entrepreneur, she shares powerful messages and actionable takeaways on topics that include DEI, mental health, social justice, authentic leadership, and resilience.

In 2017, Zafar wrote an article about her personal experience with abuse for Toronto Life, which became one of the most-read articles in Canada. In that same year, she delivered a TEDx talk on gender-based violence, which was named an “all-time top 12” talk. Since then, she has given a total of three TEDx talks and delivered keynotes for several major organizations, including UNICEF, United Way, Yale University, Amnesty International, Art of Leadership, Quickbooks Canada, and many non-profits, corporations, and universities around the world.

A bestselling author, Zafar published her memoir, A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose, in 2019, which became an instant bestseller and was named one of CBC’s Best Books of 2019 for Canadian Non-fiction and a top 2019 read by The Washington Post. Zafar’s work has been featured in several national and international media outlets, including Huffington Post, Global Citizen, CTV, CBC, Global News, The Globe and Mail, the Canadian Press, and Toronto Star.

Recognized as one of Canada’s “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” by Women’s Executive Network, Zafar is the founder and executive director of Brave Beginnings, a non-profit organization dedicated to mentoring abuse survivors in their journey to build a life of freedom. She has mentored dozens of women helping them to pursue their dreams and goals. Zafar was also named among the “Top 25 Most Inspirational Women” by CanadianSME Magazine, a “Top 25 Canadian Immigrant” by RBC, and is a celebrated ambassador for Plan International Canada.

Zafar is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics. She earned the highest distinction and was the recipient of the prestigious John H Moss Award, a scholarship awarded to the single most outstanding student across the University’s three campuses. Previously an executive in financial services, Zafar is now attending medical school at McMaster University.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity: Holding Safe Space for Ourselves and Each Other in a Diverse World

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 this country and an advocate for human rights and equity for over 10 years, Samra Zafar has traveled across the country and 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.

In this presentation, Zafar draws on 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.

Mental Health Through an Inclusive Lens

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. One in three women in North America suffer from abuse, one in five Canadians 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?

In this presentation, Samra Zafar provides practical and implementable positive psychology-based tips, tools, and strategies to build skills for resilience and mental well-being. By building inclusive, empathetic workplaces, we can create collective resilience where everyone wins.

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 Zafar will show audiences how, when we embrace our vulnerabilities and show up authentically, we can foster genuine trust, real connections, and collective resilience. This unlocks new potential and helps us become remarkable leaders.

Selling Your Why and Developing your Authentic Brand in a Digital World

In our digital world, it’s more important now than ever to create and live an authentic, human-centred, inclusive, and value-added online presence to attract new clients, build referrals, and retain existing clients. People don’t buy from businesses; they buy from the people behind the business — people they trust. Business professionals who fully understand this will stand out among the crowd.

No stranger to the spotlight, Samra Zafar has become an authentic and trusted voice on many powerful issues like diversity and inclusion, equity, and mental health. Join Zafar to learn how you can create an authentic online presence, build a loyal following, and establish trust with clients and prospects to build key relationships and translate into business success.

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, 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 Zafar explores how education can help people escape adversity and create new fulfilling lives based on empowerment, respect, and equity. Her experiences illustrate the power of continuous learning to expand our minds, connect us through mutual purpose and values, and unlock our individual and collective potential.

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 will explore the intersectionality of abuse and culture, generational cycles of oppression, and educating youth on how to identify gender-based violence.