International DEI, Mental Health, Social Justice Expert & Award-Winning Author
Samra Zafar is an award-winning international speaker, bestselling author, and social entrepreneur who advocates for equity, inclusion, mental health and human rights. She has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by Women’s Executive Network in 2019 and Top 25 Inspirational Women in Canada.
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.
In 2017, Samra’s article about her personal experience with abuse for Toronto Life became the most-read article and was shared widely across the world, with readership in the hundreds of thousands. 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.
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, Quickbooks Canada 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.
Previously an executive in financial services, Samra is currently attending Medical School at McMaster University to pursue her goal as a doctor in the field of Mental Health. As a Keynote Speaker, she continues to share her powerful messages through story-telling, actionable take-aways and lessons in the fields of DEI, mental health, social justice, authentic leadership and resilience.
Diversity, Inclusion & 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 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. Sample topics include: Racism and Allyship, Understanding Intersectionality & Cultural Competency, Listening and Understanding the Immigrant Experience, Breaking Systemic Barriers to Inclusion, Opening the Door for Difficult yet Necessary Conversations, Starting from the Top: How Leaders can Advance Equity, and Removing Unconscious Bias: Within Us and Around Us.
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. Samra has developed and delivered a series of 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 wellbeing. Sample topics include: Mental Health - The Shadow Pandemic of Covid-19, Emotional & Mental Resilience Skills During Difficult Times, 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, and Fostering Psychological Safety & Empathy. 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.
How Authenticity Fosters Human Connection & Inclusive 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 judgement with others holding the key. We are bombarded daily with messages from society about whom we should aspire to be and how to express ourselves. As a result, we develop beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that keep us acting in the ways we were taught to act. These subliminal messages around us chip away at our ability to be our authentic selves. This leads to bouts of anxiety, fear of rejection, impostor syndrome and simply feeling we are not enough.
Samra explores, however, that when we embrace our vulnerabilities and show up authentically, we foster genuine trust, real connections, resilience, inclusion, and collective human connection. This unlocks new potential and helps us become the remarkable leaders we are and set the stage for others to do the same.
In this session, you will learn how to create meaningful lasting connections, cultivate human-lead leadership within yourself and others, understand the connection between inclusivity, authenticity, and mental wellness and how they all play a part in helping us live healthy, happy and truly fulfilled lives.
Selling Your Why & Developing your Authentic Brand in a Digital World
People don’t buy from businesses, they buy from the people behind the business; people buy from people they trust. Selling is emotional whether we want to believe it or not and it is those business professionals who fully understand this who stand out among the crowd. With the ever-evolving online world in which we live today, clients have spent the time and research you and your business before they decide to engage with what you have to offer. This is why it is 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. 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 - which is the backbone of her success as an internationally renowned speaker, educator and bestselling author. Join Samra to learn how you can create an authentic online presence, build a loyal following, and establish trust with clients and prospects that will convert in key relationships and business success.
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.
Educating & Parenting Through Difficult Times
How can we help our children 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 parents build gratitude, resilience and grit in their children and youth. Sample topics include: Parenting through and after Trauma, Helping Youth Cope through Uncertainty, Finding Opportunity in Adversity, Psychological Safety & Empathy, and Holding Space for Others.
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 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.
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.