Women’s Rights Speakers

  • Janet Benshoof, Esq.

    President and Founder, Global Justice Center

    Janet Benshoof is an internationally recognized human rights lawyer who has established landmark legal precedents on women’s reproductive and equality rights, the right to free expression, freedom of religion, and gender crimes in transitional justice law. Ms. Benshoof has litigated in courts in over forty states and in the United States Supreme Court. As President of the Global Justice Center, Ms. Benshoof is currently developing new legal tools to implement gender equality, focusing on transitional democracies and enforcing criminal accountability during conflict. Ms. Benshoof has been selected by the National Law Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America”, and is the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship in recognition of her singular contributions to advancing women’s legal rights.

    Ms. Benshoof graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota and received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. As Director of the American Civil Liberties Reproductive Freedom Project, for fifteen years she spearheaded national litigation focusing on shaping Supreme Court jurisprudence on gender equality and reproductive choice. In 1992 Ms. Benshoof founded the first international human rights organization specializing in reproductive choice and equality, now the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). In the organization’s first ten years, under Ms. Benshoof’s leadership, CRR obtained consultative status to the UN, established legal projects in over 40 countries, and won major class action constitutional cases in the United States Supreme Court.

    Ms. Benshoof lectures at law schools and universities globally and has taught human rights law at Bard College and Harvard Law School. Ms. Benshoof is an international law advisor to several Burmese exile groups and is currently working on a project to refer the military in Burma to the International Criminal Court. Since 2005 Ms. Benshoof has conducted three human rights law trainings in Iraq, including a historic three-day training on gender rights and international law for Iraqi women leaders and the Judges of the Iraqi High Tribunal. This training resulted in the first legal decision by a high court in the Middle East according women rights under international law. In the precedential Anfal decision the Iraqi High Tribunal adopted the gender crimes standards of the International Criminal Court and held the officials directing the genocide guilty of rape as an element of genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture. Ms. Benshoof is also advising women from Burma and Kudistan, Iraq, on constitution drafting and writing a book on the exclusion of women in Burma from political leadership from 1886 to the present.

    Ms. Benshoof has published numerous articles in the Harvard Law Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New York University Journal of International Law and Policy, the Law Ka Nat, a Journal of The Burma Lawyers’ Council, among other respected publications. She has appeared on the BBC, CBS evening news, Good Morning America, ABC evening news, Nightline, and McNeil /Lehr. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and served on its Burma Task Force.

  • Elise C. Boddie

    Fordham Law School

  • Andrea D. Friedman

    Senior Counsel, Global Justice Center

    Andrea Friedman is a human rights lawyer with a focus on international law and women’s rights. As Senior Counsel at the Global Justice Center, Ms. Friedman manages legal and advocacy projects working with women leaders in transitional democracies to enforce the international legal guarantees for women’s political and legal rights. Her work at the GJC has included advocating for women’s inclusion in the political process and constitution drafting within the exiled community of Burma and advancing women’s rights through the judiciary and legal reform in Iraq. Her article, “Using the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women to Advocate for the Political Rights of Women in a Democratic Burma”, was published in the Summer 2005 issue in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender. She has also been invited to speak as an expert on legal and judicial reform.

    Previously, Ms. Friedman was the Program Manager of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she worked on domestic and international women’s rights, including coordinating research and events on women in international development, women’s health, combating sex trafficking and women’s political participation. While at WAPPP, she helped to coordinate the first Women Waging Peace Colloquium, which brought together over 100 women from areas of conflict, and provided them with skills and advocacy training as well a forum for the exchange of ideas and strategies.

    Ms. Friedman holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. summa cum laude in Political Science from Tufts University where she was chosen to give the Wendell Phillips Commencement Address at Tufts. She currently resides in New York City. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and law schools on international law and human rights.

  • Lenora Lapidus

    ACLU Women’s Rights Project

  • Lilly Ledbetter

    Lilly Ledbetter was hired at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Gadsden, Alabama, as a Supervisor/Area Manager. She worked there almost twenty years managing various areas of production. While at Goodyear she received the top performance award. She was one of four area area managers selected to start up the light truck production at the Gadsden Plant. Prior to Goodyear employment she was a District Manager for H & R Block, Inc. managing fourteen locations in the Anniston, Alabama, area. Prior to H & R Block she was Assistant Finicial Aid Director at Jacksonville State University.

    Ledbetter was honored by the National Women’s Law Center, Washington D.C., at their thirty-fifth anniversary dinner. She was honored for standing up and fighting discrimination and for her efforts to secure fairer workplaces and stonger civil rights protections for all Americans.

    Ledbetter was the first female president of the Anniston Area Management Association. She is the current District Two Director of the Alabama Federation of Women Clubs. She served a six year term on Alabama Board for License of Private Schools. She is active in her church and is a local volunteer.

    Ledbetter was born and grew up in Alabama. She has been married to her husband Charles fifty-two years and they have a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.

  • Jennifer Lee

    ACLU/Women’s Rights Project

  • Emily Martin

    ACLU/Women’s Rights Project

  • Jocelyn Samuels

    National Women’s Law Center

    Jocelyn Samuels is Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center, where she focuses on barriers to the advancement of women and girls at school and in the workplace. Among her areas of focus, in which she participates in litigation, advocacy, and public education, are non-discrimination in athletics; fair treatment of women and girls in career education programs and non-traditional fields like math and science; equal pay for equal work; and development of fundamental legal principles of equal opportunity. Prior to joining the Center, Ms. Samuels was Labor Counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In addition to legal experience in the private sector, she also worked for a decade as a senior policy attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she specialized in issues of sex and race discrimination. Ms. Samuels received her law degree from Columbia University and her Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College.

  • Cindy Soohoo

    Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School

    Cynthia Soohoo directs the Bringing Human Rights Home Project, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School and is a supervising attorney for the law school’s Human Rights Clinic.  BHRH encourages U.S. compliance with international human rights law, including through the use of international and regional human rights mechanisms and the development of strategies to use human rights and comparative foreign law in U.S. courts.  Ms. Soohoo has worked on U.S. human rights issues before U.N. human rights bodies, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and in domestic courts on issues including juvenile justice and challenges to the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies post-9/11.   Prior to coming to HRI, she practiced law at the firm Covington & Burling for six years and was co-counsel in the landmark Alien Tort Statute case Doe v. Karadzic.  Ms. Soohoo is on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Human Rights Network and the co-editor of a three volume book on human rights and the United States, entitled BRINGING HUMAN RIGHTS HOME.

    Ms. Soohoo is cum laude graduate of Williams College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an editor of the Law Review and member of the Order of the Coif. She is a former law clerk to the Hon. Gerard L. Goettel, U.S.D.J., S.D.N.Y.

  • Wendy R. Weiser

    Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law