Women of Maine: Catherine Lee

Women of Maine: Catherine Lee

At age seventeen, Stephanie Littlehale of Rockport was homeless and sleeping in her car in a Walmart parking lot. A little more than four years later, a Mitchell Scholar, she graduated as valedictorian of her class at the University of Maine and she is now a third-year law student at Georgetown University. Together with Senator Justin Alfond and Kristen Miale, President of the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Littlehale shared her story at the Overcoming Food Insecurity panel, the kick-off event for the 2016 Justice for Women Lecture Series.

2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the University of Maine School of Law’s Justice for Women Lecture Series, established by Catherine Lee. Born of her involvement with Maine Law’s Women’s Law Association (WLA), Lee, a Lewiston native and the Managing Director of Lee International, shared how the idea for the series came about:

“The WLA students had a hunger for any international connection and it was clear that more needed to be done to help bridge the cultural divide between traditional Mainers and new Mainers. So, after one of WLA’s spring receptions the idea became clear to me –bring an extraordinary woman leader from a developing nation to Maine for a week to speak about justice for women and girls.”

In previous years, the Justice for Women Lecture Series has brought human rights, building peace and sex trafficking to the fore by bringing internationally renowned speakers to Maine. These include: the Honorable Unity Dow of Botswana, novelist and first woman high court judge in Botswana; Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, peace activist, social worker and women's rights advocate; Dr. Sima Samar, renowned human rights and women's rights advocate from Afghanistan who chairs the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission; and Ruchira Gupta of India, Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots organization working to end sex trafficking.

Catherine Lee founded Lee International in 1997, after a 17 year career in law, first as a Sex Crimes prosecutor in the Brooklyn, NY DA’s Office, then as a partner at the Portland law firm of Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson. Lee International provides legal, regulatory and advisory services to around the world to assess, develop and implement climate change projects, programs and policies. She recently attended the COP21 conference in Paris, which brought international stakeholders together to bolster business innovation and cooperation in the global green economy and resulted in a groundbreaking global agreement between 195 countries to work together to address climate change. Climate change, environmental degradation, the impact of poverty on women, and food insecurity are inextricably related issues. This year’s Justice for Women Lecture Series will focus on food insecurity at global and local levels.

On Thursday evening, March 24, Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO and Head of Mission of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), of Zimbabwe, will discuss food insecurity, an issue that disproportionately affects women and bridges cultural divides. In Maine, one out of every four children is food insecure; they do not know when or where they will get their next meal. More than 208,000 individuals, or 16.2 percent of Maine households lack access to enough food to ensure adequate nutrition.[1]

The Justice for Women Lecture Series is free and open to the public, and is supported by the University of Maine School of Law and the tireless efforts of Catherine Lee, Dean Danielle Conway, Maddy Corson, and others committed to the spread of social justice.

Justice For Women is a shining example of what exactly Maine Law can contribute to our community. Each year the program brings us all closer to realizing self-empowerment and self-determination for women and girls worldwide.” - Danielle Conway, Dean, University of Maine School of Law[2]

The Maine Women’s Fund is pleased to recognize Catherine Lee for her leadership and generosity in founding the Justice for Women Lecture Series, which offers the Maine public a unique opportunity to annually hear from a distinguished speaker and engage with topics of global and local significance that impact the lives of women and girls.

For more information about the Justice for Women Lecture Series visit:  http://www.justiceforwomenme.org/speakers/ or http://mainelaw.maine.edu/events/justice-for-women-lecture/

If you know of a Maine women or girl whose story deserves recognition, please email Lauren Webster LaFrance, Communications and Marketing Director at lauren@mainewomensfund.org


[1] https://www.gsfb.org/hunger/

[2] http://www.justiceforwomenme.org/about/

Posted 02.01.2016 under News and Resources