2018 Annual Lecturer

Mariam Jalabi - Syria

A businesswoman turned peace activist, Mariam Jalabi is Director of the Syrian National Coalition’s office at the United Nations in New York. Born in Damascus and raised in the Golan Heights, Ms. Jalabi ran a fashion company, advancing women’s freedom of movement through clothing, until the revolution began in 2011.

Ms. Jalabi then shifted to political work, advocating for democracy and gender equality as a founding member of the Syrian Non-Violence Movement. She led events and rallies in support of the Syrian revolution and joined the largest political opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition. She has directed the coalition’s New York office to the UN since 2013.

A passionate advocate for women’s inclusion in the Syrian peace process, Ms. Jalabi has counseled negotiators for the Syrian opposition as a member of the Women’s Advisory Committee to the talks. In her work with the Syrian Women’s Network and the Syrian Feminist Lobby, she has spearheaded numerous initiatives to expand the political participation of Syrian women and minorities, as well as to increase their presence in the media.

Ms. Jalabi is an independent business owner with degrees in political science from McGill University in Montreal and fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. True to what Syria represents, she has a rich multi-ethnic cultural background and is fluent in English, Arabic, and Circassian.

2017 Annual Lecturer

Zainah Anwar - Malaysia

Zainah Anwar is a founding member and former Executive Director of Sisters in Islam, a non-governmental organization working on the rights of Muslim women within the framework of Islam. She is now the Director of Musawah, the SIS-initiated Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family. She also writes a monthly column, Sharing the Nation, for the Star, the largest English-language daily in Malaysia.

 Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda

2016 Annual Lecturer

Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda - Zimbabwe

Since 2004, Dr. Sibanda has held the position of Chief Executive Officer and Head of Mission of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). Lindiwe coordinates policy research and advocacy programmes aimed at making Africa a food and nutrition secure region. She is currently leading a multi-country research and technical assistance project on Improving Nutrition Outcomes through Optimized Agricultural Investments (ATONU), addressing the question “What can agriculture do for nutrition”. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the ATONU project seeks to improve nutrition outcomes in smallholder farm families and poor households through tailored nutrition-sensitive agriculture programs that ultimately benefit women of child bearing age and children in the first 1,000 days of life.

Ruchira Gupta

2015 Annual Lecturer

Ruchira Gupta - India

Ruchira Gupta is the Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide – a grassroots organization in India working to end sex trafficking by increasing choices for at-risk girls and women. She has striven over her 25 year career to highlight the link between trafficking and prostitution laws, and to lobby policy makers to shift blame from victims to perpetrators.


2014 Annual Lecturer

Dr. Sima Samar - Afghanistan

Dr. Sima Samar is a renowned human rights and women's rights advocate from Afghanistan. She is head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and founder of the Shuhada Organization, dedicated to the welfare of progress of Afghan citizens, with the primary focus on the empowerment of women and children.


2013 Annual Lecturer

Leymah Gbowee - Liberia

Recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, peace activist, social worker and women's rights advocate, Gbowee is Founder and President of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa and Director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa. Ms. Gbowee's lecture, attended by close to 800 people, was introduced by Cora Weiss and opened with a performance by Portland's Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus.

2013 Special Lecturer

Hon. Albie Sachs - South Africa

The Honorable Albie Sachs, former activist lawyer and author, worked with Nelson Mandela to draft South Africa's constitution and served as one of the original Constitutional Court Judges. He spoke to all of Maine's state and federal court judges, and dozens of students and community members in Orono, Bangor, Lewiston and Portland.

2012 Annual Lecturer

Honorable Unity Dow - Botswana

Judge Dow is a member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Education in Botswana. She is also an international human rights advocate and novelist. She served for over a decade as the first woman high court judge in Botswana. Her five books deal with issues concerning the struggle between Western and traditional values, gender, and her nation's poverty. Judge Dow's lecture was introduced by Maine's Chief Justice, Leigh Saufley.