Samra Zafar – Defying All OddsWritten by Muslims Actually
Samra Zafar is a Commercial Account Manager at RBC Royal Bank. She is the award recipient of multiple awards and a graduate of the University of Toronto, a Public Speaker, an upcoming Author, and the Founder of Brave Beginnings, an organization dedicated to helping women find personalized mentorship, friendship and support to rebuild their lives after oppression and abuse.
What inspires you? Or who inspires you?
I consider a number of people as role models in my life. Various people who came into my life at the right time. People who defy the odds, people of courage who stand up even if the entire world is against them. I’m inspired by a successful business man and corporate CEO that I met through my University when I won the John Moss Scholarship, a prestigious award that I was honoured to women as the first mature student and first women of colour to ever receive such an award. This individual has become a mentor and is like a father to me and my closet friend. What I love most about him is that he is the most humble and down to earth person I’ve ever met despite being so successful. And he’s genuinely invested in others’ success. I am also inspired by people I meet every day, people who have become my support system. There are good people out there who see past race, culture and religion. Like minded individuals. Everyday people who choose to challenge the odds. People with guts and strength. I’m even inspired by things I read and watch, like a recent video I saw posted on The Humans of New York about a Christian Pakistani man who believed he could be more than just a caretaker.
We all have defining moments what were some defining moments in your life and how change the course of our life?
I had a number of defining moments in my life. The first the day before my father passed away. I went to visit him in the hospital. I had come to visit him from Canada and had no intention of going back to my then husband because he was being abusive. I told my father that I was scared and that I didn’t know what I would do without him. He looked at me and said “I need you to see the strength that I see inside of you. You don’t need me or anyone else, you can do this on your own.” I will never forget his words, when I returned back to my home in Canada, I took it upon myself to join university and start my education.
The next defining moment was when I finally decided to leave my abusive husband. After 12 years of trying to make it work, of trying to change him, and trying to change myself, there came a point when I realized that he was never going to change and that I had only 2 options: To be quiet and take the abuse for the rest of my life OR To leave him and start over. If I can describe it, “it’s like jumping off a cliff and hoping that there is ground underneath. A true leap of faith”.
I didn’t do it for me, but for my girls. My daughters who were 5 and 10 years old then. I didn’t want them to have to go through the same thing. Once the decision was made and I left, there were times where I felt so alone. As if perhaps going back to the evil I know was better than the struggle I was going through.
I remember one night in particular when I was crying on the phone with my mom and my little one came over. She said to me “mom I know you don’t have a husband, a brother, a son but you have Allah SWT and I promise you, we will do this together”. That was a defining moment for me. Knowing that no matter what, we were going to be ok.
While I could go on, here’s one more to share with you. While at university, and amidst working 3 jobs, I found time to volunteer with the UTM Centre supporting individuals with disabilities. I remember sitting with one particular woman who I would support, often simply to type what she would verbally dictate to me. She was a blind, in a wheel chair and was deaf in one ear, but yet she was determined to live her dream of graduating with distinction. When I saw her, I realized just how fortunate I still was for having my health, my daughters and having a place to live and the opportunity to acquire an education. It’s moments like these that remind us how fortunate we really are.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I’m in the process of establishing an organization called “Brave Beginnings”. It’s an organization that says “whatever happens in the past does not define our future”. We give hope and empowerment to women who want to define themselves. No woman should have to be left alone to deal with it. Women are ostracized for standing up for their lives. There is no support to transition these women back into the world. For me it was like walking in a dark tunnel and hoping that I was walking in the right direction. You need that one voice to say “I understand, it’s hard but it’s going to be ok”. To hold her hand, to teacher how to walk again, so she can run. An organization that becomes a well-known resource that women can turn towards. As far as my career goes, I am determined to continue to excel in my career as well. Whatever it is that I choose to do, I won’t be able to stay away from school. I am an academic at heart and will always be attached to some university in some way.
How do you raise your children?
I raise my daughters to be kind by strong. To be successful yet down to earth. High achievers and to have compassion to give back. I want them to take every opportunity and be who they want to be. I never want them to feel that they are not capable of achieving their dreams because they are women.
Do you have any advice for women who are either currently in an abusive situation or have recently left a situation?
It’s not going to be easy but it’s not impossible. Try to give yourself motivation. I remember giving myself pep talks in front of a mirror. Find your passion, that which drives you e.g. your children, your self-respect etc., there are good people out there so use them as a resource. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Accept your vulnerability. It’s ok not to be strong and to breakdown. Authentic people will accept you for who you are no matter what. There will be times when you miss him or you feel weak and hopeless. It’s ok. It’s your process. I always say “my feelings are not in my control, but my actions are”. Tell yourself its ok to feel vulnerable. Find your source of strength and no that it’s inside of you. Helping others is about helping yourself. So much motivation and inspiration came from my volunteer work. I felt so much more grateful for my situation. I strongly believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. When you help others Allah SWT will help you.
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