Samra Zafar is an award-winning international speaker, author, scholar, and social entrepreneur who advocates for equity, inclusion, and human rights.
Samra Zafar is an award-winning international speaker, bestselling author, and social entrepreneur who advocates for equity, inclusion, and human rights.
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. A powerful example of her mentoring success story is here.
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, and earned a spot on national bestseller lists for 12 consecutive weeks, 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, ME to WE, and many nonprofits, corporations and universities across the world. She has also been named a Celebrated Ambassador for Plan International Canada and their global ending child marriage campaign.
Samra is one of the youngest alumni serving as a Governor for the University of Toronto, and is a 2019 DiverseCity Fellow for Civic Action. She has received numerous major awards for her work, including the 2019 Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award.
Awards and Recognition
Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants 2019
Ascend Canada Mentor of The Year Award, 2018
CPACT Malala Yousafzai Women Empowerment Award, 2018
RBC Global Citizen Award, 2017
Woman of Courage Awards (several organizations)
Spotlight Award (Canada Pakistan Professionals Association)
Nominee – Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women 2019
Brilliant Minded Woman Award, 2018
Pink Attitude Award, 2018
Proclamation by Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio 2017
Top Student in Economics (University of Toronto
CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow, 2019
John H Moss Scholarship – University of Toronto top student Award
Ontario Graduate Scholarship
Gold Medalist in Economics
13 other awards at U of T including TA Excellence, Faculty Choice, Research Excellence, Community Leadership
Founded by Samra, Brave Beginnings is a non-profit in the GTA that matches women who have escaped oppression with mentors who are empathetic and caring. Working together, women receive personal support, motivation, and friendship from their mentor to help rebuild their lives, reach their goals, and live with the respect, dignity, freedom, and happiness they deserve.