Samra Zafar on Empowering Women: Women History Month

This is a modern-day fairy tale where the heroine saves her own life.
— Sharon Bala, bestselling author of The Boat People

International Women’s Day

Yesterday for international women’s day, Samra Zafar—author of A Good Wife—stopped by my office at HarperCollins Canada for a keynote address. It was her third stop yesterday. Her keynote address yesterday focused on facing adversity and empowering women.

Upon marrying, Samra was stopped from having any education or having any freedom. She became a prisoner in her own home and made to feel as if she wasn’t good enough. She talked about how abuse is not always black and white: it’s a gray area. And after every abuse there was a honeymoon period where you think that things will be great now because he’s realized and apologized. You want to make it work because you see the good in that person.

She feels as though she is lucky because she became educated and got the success and the strength to change her life. But she kept thinking, “what about all the silenced women out there? What about their lost potential?” So she really wanted to start a conversation because 1 in 3 women are abused. This statistic is under reported because it doesn’t take into factor emotional and psychological abuse into consideration.

Samra compares emotional abuse to the boiling frog in water theology. The abuse is something that can progress slowly overtime. And this time gives the person time to adjust. And they can start to believe that they did something to deserve it. But then she decided that she didn’t want her children to grow up thinking that this behaviour is okay.

Samra talked about how finding a community changed her life. She was able to find a support system to help her leave. How a small action can have a life changing effect And it started with acts of kindness from strangers. People who noticed evidence of her abuse started to ask her questions. And at first she denied anything was wrong. But then eventually she found the strength to share her story.

Samra realized that sharing her story has started a conversation with other women who feel as though they can relate to her. These conversations can have life changing effects on people. Samra’s story has done a lot to faciliate a conversation about abuse. She even mentions at the end of her book how her story in Toronto Life stopped the marriage of another 17 year old girl and her parents chose education.

I highly recommend you read A Good Wife when you get the chance. Not only is it a great story that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to, but it also gives great insight to how you can help someone who is being abused. The main thing I took away from Samra’s talk that the best thing you can do is to be someone’s friend, be supportive, and be a non-judgmental listening ear.

Samra is such an inspiration for me because I’ve always valued education over finding love and that you should always pursue your dreams, no matter the obstacles you may face on your path there.

Thank you to Samra, Irina, and the rest of the HarperCollins Canada staff who were responsible for setting up the International Women’s Day events at the office yesterday. It was inspiring to talk to Samra and I’m so excited that this is the next book I’m going to read for Women’s History Month.

About A Good Wife

At sixteen, Samra Zafar had dreams to go to university and forge her own path. Then, with almost no warning, those dreams were snatched away when she was suddenly married to a stranger at seventeen and had to leave behind her family in Pakistan and move to Canada. Her new husband and his family vowed that the marriage and the move would be a fulfillment of her dream, not a betrayal of it. But as the walls of their home slowly became a prison, Samra realized their promises were empty ones.

Desperate to get out and refusing to give up, she hatched an escape plan for herself and her two daughters. Slowly, over the months and years, she found the strength not only to build a new future, but also to walk away from her past.

A Good Wife tells the harrowing and inspiring story of a young girl who grows into a woman of courage and power in the face of oppression.

What books are you reading for Women’s History Month? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @briannafbenton!