A sold-out crowd at Regina’s Evraz Place heard from several women ‘Defying the Odds,’ as part of the 10th annual University of Regina Inspiring Leadership Forum.

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, shared her story enduring rape and abuse while she was held captive for nine months.

“I know that they’re here: people who have been victimized (or) people who have been abused,” Smart said. “I want them to know, this isn't their fault. They deserve all the happiness (and) every good thing life has to offer.”

Smart is now an advocate for child safety.

“These topics have to be talked about because they're terrible, they're awful, they're far too common. They should not be allowed that kind of power. They should not be allowed that kind of control and hold over women,” Smart said.

The forum also heard from author Cheryl Strayed. Her memoir, Wild, documented Strayed’s solo journey on the pacific coast trail. It was later made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Reese Witherspoon.

“In order to be a good leader, you have to be a good human. And what you need to do is to really find that story within yourself that tells you, 'You can,' or 'You will,’” Strayed said.

Strayed said she shares her struggles and encouraging others to do the same.

“Here are the mistakes I've made. Here's what I've learned from them. Here are the hardships that I've turned into something positive in my life,” Strayed said.

University of Regina president Vianne Timmons said she’s proud to see the inspiration women find from these forums, and hopes it motivates attendees to help others in the community.

“We have to keep the conversation going until we reach where every girl-child has the same advantage as every boy-child, and we're not even close to that now,” Timmons said.

Next year’s Inspiring Leadership Forum will hear from several keynote speakers, including cult survivor Dawn Smith and television celebrity Caitlyn Jenner.