Estian Smit – Research Affiliate
BA (Philosophy and Classical Culture), BA Hons (Philosophy), MA (Philosophy), Stellenbosch University
Estian is a transgender activist, independent scholar and gender and bodily diversity consultant. They played a central role in parliamentary lobbying involving South Africa’s gender recognition law (Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act No. 49 of 2003) and have been involved in ongoing law and policy reform efforts towards greater protection and realisation of transgender and intersex rights. Over the past decade, they have worked as staff member, consultant and/or volunteer to South African transgender and intersex organisations, and have co-authored submissions to Parliament, as well as trans and intersex shadow reports to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and various United Nations committees. Estian holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Stellenbosch University and has also pursued postgraduate studies on transgender and intersex rights in relation to medico-legal and psychiatric discourses at the University of the Western Cape. Their interests include the provision of gender affirming healthcare within a human rights, social justice and wellbeing framework; depathologisation of gender and bodily diversity in international diagnostic manuals and healthcare settings; development of national gender affirming healthcare guidelines and practices in collaboration with transgender persons; and legal gender recognition for transgender, gender diverse and intersex persons on the basis of the rights to self-identification, bodily integrity and bodily autonomy. They are also passionate about sharing knowledge and building research networks, and committed to research that is open access, participatory and accountable to research participants.

Dr Helen Liebling-Research Associate


PhD Women and Gender, University of Warwick; M.Phil. Clinical Psychology, Edinburgh University, M.Sc. Forensic Behavioural Science, Liverpool University, BSc (Hons) 2:1 Psychology, Swansea University RGN, Registered General Nurse, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham


Helen Liebling’s research investigates health and justice service responses for conflict survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and torture in Africa including refugees in Africa and the United Kingdom. Helen has worked in collaboration with African organisations in Northern Uganda, Liberia, Eastern DRC, Rwanda, and South Africa. Helen carries our collaborative research at GHJRU and has given talks on her research at UCT during sabbaticals. Following collaborative research with South Sudanese refugee survivors of SGBV and torture with GHJRU (Liebling, Barrett & Artz, 2020a; 2020b), UNHCR cited social enterprises established with refugees by the research team as a model of good practice in their global compact for refugees: Social-Enterprise Groups for South Sudanese Refugee Survivors | The Global Compact on Refugees | Digital platform (


Helen is the Clinical Lead for Refugee Well-Being Services in Coventry and works as an Assistant Professor at Coventry & Warwick Universities. She is proud to be a member of the Tearfund/SVRI steering group on the involvement of Faith-Based Organisations in the prevention of SGBV. Helen is also an invited member of the Healing in Harmony advisory group that evaluated the impact of music with women conflict survivors of SGBV in Eastern DRC. Helen was recently invited together with Last Mafuba, Refugee Expert by Experience and Director of Inini, by Network for Dialogue to assist to write policy documents for supporting refugees including one entitled: Supporting Teachers in the Use of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Inclusive Education for Refugee’s N4D-PolicyBriefs-01-Education-Final.pdf (