NSB Logo Samra Zafar Samra Zafar

Samra Zafar


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Human Rights Activist & Bestselling Author

Samra Zafar is an award-winning internationally renowned speaker, bestselling author and educator for equity, mental health, and human rights. She has been recognized among the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada, Top 25 Most Inspirational Women in Canada, and Top 25 Canadian Immigrants. Her book, A Good Wife: Escaping The Life I Never Chose, based on her journey of escaping an abusive child marriage to pursue her education, shed light on gender-based oppression, is a national bestseller, was one of CBC’s Best Books of 2019, and is being adapted to a premium TV series.

Keynote Speeches

Virtual Keynotes & Webinars

With a high definition camera and mic for an unparalleled virtual experience, Samra is well-equipped to bring her personalized and customized keynotes, fireside chats, breakout sessions and Q&As to the virtual stage.

She is also an expert with all virtual platforms including Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, Go-To Meetings & Webinars.

Diversity, Inclusion & 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 every day 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 has traveled across the  country and globally 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. Samra 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.

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.

Mental Health: 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’s presentation will focus on providing practical and implementable positive psychology based tips, tools and strategies to build skills for resilience and mental wellbeing. 

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. 

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.

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. 

Educating Through Difficult Times

How can we help young adults navigate through adversity, trauma, and mental health challenges? 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 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 educators build gratitude, resilience and grit in today’s youths.

Platform Plus Presentations

Unique formats and ways to connect with audiences.
Samra offers workshops and training on a variety of topics such as diversity, inclusion & equity, leadership and providing domestic violence support in the workplace. She will address and offer a combination of information and practical tools that organizations can start implementing right away.

Audience reviews:

  • Samra was a highlight for many in attendance. She is a star! Such an inspiring story and such a beautiful person and she’s a hugger, as lots of people found out yesterday first hand! Everyone loved her!!! Of the three speakers, she definitely struck an emotional chord with the audience. We had Kleenex on the tables and they were needed! She was a delight at the VIP dinner, and went out of her way to sign everyone’s book that was in line for her book signing. It proved very important and valuable to our audience to have a Canadian speaker to which they could relate and could relate with them. - University of Regina
  • Such an inspiring session. My favourite quote (of many): When you’re not getting what you need to be yourself from the people around you, you’re not asking for the wrong things. You’re asking the wrong people. Surround yourself with people who champion you and lift you up. - Canadian Tire Corporation
  • Samra is an absolute gem! I run a company that specializes in student learning and skill building, and she delivered an incredibly engaging workshop to our parents. The strategies she shared for creating (and maintaining!) positive, productive household communication were practical and actionable, and she immediately put our audience at ease with how friendly and open she is. I highly and enthusiastically recommend Samra - you’d be
    hard pressed to find someone more authentic, relatable or inspiring. Thank you Samra! - KOMO Consulting
  • Samra, thank you for sharing your story at CIBC Mellon’s International Women’s Week event. You were passionate and honest, and you help your audience share and understand your experiences. - Chair of Women’s Initiatives Network, CIBC Mellon
  • Engaging, articulate, passionate and informative. The audience was impressed by the fact that Samra talked with them and not at them. - Community Development Unit, City of Toronto
  • We had the pleasure of welcoming Samra to celebrate International Women’s Day. Samra shared her journey from oppression to empowerment and we’ve received nothing but positive feedback. Seeing how she’s overcome adversities was inspiring. - Intuit Canada

Speaker Biography

Samra Zafar is an award-winning international speaker, bestselling author, and  social entrepreneur who advocates for equity, inclusion, and human rights. She has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by  Women’s Executive Network in 2019. 

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, received rave  reviews, and was highlighted as a top 2019 read by The Washington Post. 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’s work has since been featured on HuffingtonPost, Global Citizen, CTV, CBC, Global News, The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, Toronto Star, Yahoo, Canadian Immigrant Magazine, and many other national and international media. Her speaking portfolio includes 3 TED Talks, UNICEF, United Way, Yale University, Amnesty International, Art of Leadership, and many non- profits, corporations and universities across the world. She has been named a Celebrated Ambassador for Plan International Canada and their global ending child marriage campaign. 

Samra currently works at BMO as Lead, Purpose Communications and is one of the youngest alumni serving as a Governor for the University of Toronto. She has received numerous major awards for her work, including the 2019 Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award. She is also a board member for Women’s College Hospital Foundation.