Economist Samra Zafar will be the new face for the Canada-Pakistan Affiliated Chamber of Trade (CPACT), the Montreal-based national organization announced, Aug. 30.

The prominent human rights advocate and University of Toronto governor escaped a decade-long, abusive, forced child marriage to excel academically as a single mother and pursue a successful commercial banking career.

“We are truly humbled by her gesture,” said CPACT vice-president Sadia Sajid. “Samra and CPACT have joined forces to promote diversity, innovation and gender equality in Canada’s South Asian community.”

The news followed hot on the heels of the overwhelming success of CPACT’s first ever gala awards event at the Sheraton Montreal Airport hotel, Aug. 10, where Zafar received the Malala Yousafzai Award for her activism.

The event, sponsored by Cogeco Peer 1, far exceeded expectations, attracting more than 350 guests, including dignitaries from across Canada and abroad.

Zafar delivered the keynote address, and Faisal Butt and Jösh the Band entertained the audience with their performance.

The other award winners included Dr. Ramzan Tahir (Volunteer Excellence), Fariha Naqvi (Community Builder), Jannat Productionz (Media & Entertainment), Dera Restaurant (Restaurant & Franchising), Skylawn Travel (Tourism Excellence), Abdul Rehman [Rogers] (Consumer Retail Excellence), Naveen Garg Medical Services (Professional & Financial Services), Dr. Aïsha Baig (Young Entrepreneur/Professional of the Year), Amber Esthetics & Spa (Business Excellence), Grillado’s (Business of the Year), Zahid Ahmed (Mohammed Ali Jinnah Award), Faisal Butt (Upcoming Stand-Up Comedian), Usman & Samina Peerzada (Best Iconic Couple), Jösh the Band (Best Contemporary South Asian), Rubina Zaman (Best Citizenship), Dr. Saeed Chughtai (Lifetime Achievement) and Girish Bansal (Event Professional of the Year).

Recipients were selected by popular vote, using secure online and text message balloting organized by Mount Royal technology firm Cronomagic. The firm earned worldwide renown in 2008 for a much larger project, when it used its advanced tech acumen to ensure the safekeeping of Pakistan’s 80-million-voter electoral list during the election there that year.

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