Trigger warning: This article contains information about violence which may be triggering to survivors.
While most 16-year-olds typically spend their days learning in high school, Samra Zafar was learning she was being sent to Canada to marry a man she had yet to meet.
"My mom came into my room one day and told me I have a marriage proposal from this man who is 11 years older, who was living in the far-away country called Canada," said Zafar during a visit to HuffPost Canada's Toronto studio.
"A year later I arrived in this country as his wife."
And so began the "dark times" Zafar details in her new novel, A Good Wife: Escaping the Life I Never Chose.
After her forced marriage, she gave birth at the age of 19.
"I couldn't get an education, couldn't go out of the house, have any independence — any kind of freedom whatsoever — my job was to stay home and protect that family honour."
Yet, she kept dreaming of going to school. Some days she would practice holding a fake diploma and delivering an acceptance speech in front of a mirror.
Zafar recalls raising her two children in between long-distance learning to finish high school. She took on jobs tutoring and babysitting to save money for university. As she puts it, she had to "keep the hope alive."
At the age of 26, after 10 years of marriage and raising two kids, Zafar was finally sitting her first university lecture at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
To hear more of her story and the breakthrough message that allowed her to leave her abusive marriage, give the video above a watch.
If you need help or support for domestic violence, visit the Ending Violence Association of Canada's website to find resources near you.