Hamilton medical student and best-selling author makes list of Canada’s 100 most powerful women

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Published November 22, 2021 at 12:05 pm

Samra Zafar wrote the national bestseller A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose. It's her account of leaving an abusive child marriage. Zafar will be presented with a Women of Courage Award at the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) virtual gala on Nov. 25, 2021, for her work in breaking barriers for other women.

For the second year in a row, a medical student at Hamilton’s McMaster University made a list of Canada’s 100 most powerful women.

Samra Zafar wrote the national bestseller A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose. It’s her account of leaving an abusive child marriage. Zafar will be presented with a Women of Courage Award at the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) virtual gala on Nov. 25, 2021, for her work in breaking barriers for other women.

Zafar won the Future Leaders award from WXN in 2019.

“This new award is very close to my heart because courage is the biggest value that I live by. For me, it is not the absence of fear, but rather knowing that you are afraid and still choosing to move forward with something you believe in,” the first-year medical student told Fram Dinshaw with McMaster’s Daily News.

“We all deserve to be accepted, respected and empowered for who we are, but sadly we live in a world where we often face barriers forcing us to hide our true selves and feel that we are unable to reach our true potential,” Zafar added.

“My mission is to help break these barriers for people so that everyone can live a life that is free and true for who we are as individuals.”

Now in her late thirties, Zafar is realizing her dream of becoming a doctor by obtaining a medical degree at McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She left a lucrative banking career to do so.

At 16, Zafar was the founder of a girl’s cricket team, editor of her school newspaper, and a straight-A student in Pakistan. It was at that time Zafar was told she would be married to a man 12 years her senior. She arrived in Canada as a child bride, where she says she faced years of abuse, oppression, and obstruction to gaining an education. Zafar says her former in-laws condoned her ex’s violent behaviour, adding that a woman’s place was at home.

Nevertheless, Zafar powered through and enrolled at the University of Toronto at the age of 26 to study economics while looking after her two children, Kinza and Saarah.

“Even when there was no hope of being able to go to university, I would stand in front of the mirror and practise that graduation speech I would one day give – and I gave it when I graduated as a top student,” Zafar told Mac’s Daily News.

“That was also when I went public with my story. I logged into my Facebook and my inbox was flooded with thousands of messages from all over the world, congratulating me and thanking me for breaking the silence.”

Zafar would go on to become a governor at the University of Toronto, a board member for the Women’s College Hospital Foundation, and an ambassador for Plan International Canada. She is also a human rights activist, motivational speaker, and social entrepreneur.

She is the founder of Brave Beginnings, a national not-for-profit organization that provides mentorship to abuse survivors to support them in their journey of building a life of respect and dignity.

Zafar’s speaking portfolio includes three TEDx talks.

 

Zafar says in one of her TEDx talks that a Pakistani man wrote her, telling her that she is the reason the man turned down a marriage proposal for his 17-year-old daughter. He elected to send her to university, instead.

Zafar calls this her “biggest award,” yet.

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