Director – Gun Free South Africa (GFSA)
Adèle Kirsten has been a non-violent, social justice activist for over thirty years in South Africa. She became active in the anti-apartheid movement in the late 70’s as a result of her opposition to the injustices of the apartheid system, the growing militarisation of the society at that time as well as her support for those who refused to serve in the apartheid army and headed up several anti-apartheid organisations. She assisted in establishing through the National Peace Accord structures, a rapid response network of unarmed young people who were trained in conflict resolution and emergency services to operate in areas particularly affected by high levels of violence in the period leading up to the first general election of 1994.
She was a founding member of Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) and became its Director in March 1995. She was responsible for helping build the organisation into a national NGO, which together with the Gun Control Alliance, played an important role in advocating for stricter gun laws in South Africa. In November 2000, the Firearms Control Act was passed. Adèle was named the South African Woman of the Year in 2000 under the media and communications category as a result of the public awareness work done by Gun Free South Africa.
Adèle left GFSA in June 2002 on a two year sabbatical to reflect on and record her experiences as an activist, particularly in the area of gun control. In 2008 her book on the history of GFSA- A Nation without Guns? The Story of Gun Free South Africa was published by UKZN Press. During this period she continued to work in the field of small arms control as a researcher and analyst. This included being appointed to several advisory boards, notably the UK Department for International Development (DFID) Armed Violence and Poverty Initiative as well as the OECD Advisory panel on armed violence reduction. She was also a research associate with the Institute of Security Studies and has published several papers on the issue of gun control including an evaluation of firearms amnesties in South Africa.
Adèle joined the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) as its Director in 2008 until end 2010. This multi-disciplinary and thematically diverse organisation has helped South Africans make sense of and grapple with the meaning and manifestations of violence in our society, exploring ways to both reduce and prevent violence. She was research coordinator and co-author of The smoke that calls: Insurgent citizenship, collective violence and the struggle for a place in the new South Africa (a case study of community protests and xenophobic violence).
She continues to work in the area of social justice and violence prevention; this includes being a Board member of the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, Cape Town, and the Advocacy Director for GFSA.
Her key skills involve strategic leadership, knowledge of conflict and violence prevention strategies with a focus on community peace-building, advocacy, organisational management, and research and communications skills.