Pratibha was born in Nairobi, Kenya and went with her family to live in England in 1967. Before she began to make films, she was a youth and community worker working in the Asian community with young women. She studied at Bradford University for her B.A. Hons degree and did postgraduate studies at the Cultural Studies Centre at Birmingham University.
She travelled to India in 1975 and worked as volunteer in rural development projects around India. During this time she spent 3 months working in Calcutta with Mother Teresa.
Pratibha worked in the feminist publishing collective, Sheba Feminist Press in the mid 1980s, where she was responsible for editing and publishing writings by Asian and African-Caribbean women, including the British publication of The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde.
She gave the Keynote address to the "Outwrite" conference in Boston in February 1999 and was invited to be a Regents Lecturer at the University of San Diego in Spring 1999.
The New Festival in New York did a tribute to Pratibha Parmar in June 1999. Pratibha is a Board member of Women in Film and Television (UK) and The Directors Guild of Great Britain.