The WAND TeamAs women and women with disabilities, we embrace our beauty, womanhood, sexuality, sensuality and motherhood so that we can become the best that we can be. We have learnt to face our challenges and to tackle it head on so that each challenge or obstacle becomes a victory. Despite having a disability, we are indeed capable of having a good marriage, having a job and career, being successful business women and entrepreneurs, having children, being a competent mother and being a good lover, wife and sister.

We are okay with who we are and because of this we feel quite comfortable in our own skin. We embrace our physical beauty and enjoy being and looking the best that we can. We also embrace our inner beauty as this exposes our strength, courage, tenacity, resilience and determination.  This enables us to be confident and we are able to use these traits to empower women and all other persons with disabilities to lift their heads high and to chase their dreams and goals, however difficult it might seem at times.

We are passionate about living life to the fullest – despite having to face double barriers quite often. Double barriers that say that “you are disabled” and “you are a woman” meaning “you belong to the weaker sex, so therefore you are less of a person and not able to rise to the occasion.”

In general, women in particular as well as all persons with disabilities (men, women and children) are from the vulnerable groups and often face challenges daily such as discrimination, prejudice, abuse and unfair treatment in their ongoing battle for inclusion in mainstream society.  Often people’s and society’s unwritten rules and laws tells us we cannot and should not do certain things, but we choose to ignore this as only we ourselves can decide what we can or cannot do.  And we choose a CAN DO attitude, full of zest for life which enables us to achieve simple as well as great things.

Women’s Achievement Network for Disability is an initiative from Professional Disability Services, a non-profit company that was started in 2006.  The purpose of this company is to highlight the challenges of women and persons with disabilities and to connect them to resources so that they can empower themselves continuously to be able to contribute on an economical level.

Why did we create the WAND e-initiative?

In 2008, Marlene le Roux compiled a book of 23 women with disabilities.  The Look at me book focusses on disabled women’s journeys and how they came to self-acceptance.  Marlene’s main aim was to raise the visibility of disabled women in South Africa and to challenge the myths that society have towards disabled women’s sensuality and sexuality.  The book was hugely successful and sold out within a few months after it was launched.  The life stories of Marlene and Karen Smit also features in the book.

The success of the Look at me book made us realize that we need to continue our journey of raising the profile of disabled women.  The challenges and achievements of women with disabilities continue to remain invisible and in some communities disabled women are referred to as “erased” women.

There is a general belief that women with disabilities are asexual, are unable to have a good marriage and unable to bear children. It is thought that women with disabilities are not beautiful, cannot be successful business women and entrepreneurs, and are not competent to be mothers and wives.  Because of the these beliefs, many disabled girls and women experience barriers which prevent them from accessing and participating in educational opportunities, employment, safety and security measures, maternal healthcare, wellness and financial opportunities/resources.

In order to debunk these myths and beliefs, we created this e-initiative so that it can serve as a platform whereby disabled women’s stories/successes/challenges can be made visible.

The WAND e-initiative will also showcase success stories of Organisations for the Disabled as they work closely with women and all disabled persons in communities.   These organisations have first-hand experience of the struggles and achievements of disabled women.

Karen Smit

I have been suffering from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for most of my life, since the age of four. Every single joint in my body is severely affected and as a result I experience mobility limitations.   Growing up in small town, society and people did not give me much of a chance and did not believe that I would grow up to be an independent adult living life to the fullest.

Fortunately I did not allow others perception of my disability to limit me (it has delayed achieving some dreams, but I have achieved it) and continue to push forward to do the things that I know I can do. As a disability activist, I strive to make a difference in disabled and all other people’s lives, so that we all can enjoy our human rights and respect each other. My family mean everything to me and with their support I am able to be a change agent for transformation.

I am a subject matter expert in Disability Employment/Management and follow a Diversity & Inclusion approach.  I am passionate about technology and head up the department in a global telecoms company that is responsible to provide accessible/inclusive mobile products and services for the disabled and elderly. I believe in dreaming dreams and setting goals, and then taking action and working hard to achieve it.

As business women with disabilities who are leading full lives, we have taken the responsibility to embark on a journey to raise the visibility of disabled women and girls with the aim of demystifying incorrect beliefs and making our voices heard.



M.A (industrial) Social Work at the University of Stellenbosch



  • Women’s award in 2010 from the Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities in recognition of providing ICT solutions for the disabled and elderly in South Africa and for being a successful business woman and a mother.
  • Had my own Employment column in a disability magazine in 2010
  • Finalist in the 2008 Africa Com Awards in the Category: Changing Lives for providing mobile technology for the visually impaired
  • Human Resources Directors award in 2008 for spearheading a national Employment Equity initiative within a global telecoms company
  • Managing Director’s award in 2004 for designing and implementing disability management within a global telecoms company
  • Delivered various keynote and motivational speeches locally and international

Marlene le Roux

I am a proud woman with a disability, but it was a painful journey until I got to this point.

And then God grace me with two beautiful children, Aimee and Adam.  Adam has Cerebral Palsy and he is mentally and physically disabled.  I needed to dig very deep into my journey of strength and self-acceptance.  And this journey I would like to share with other women that are going through similar experiences.

I am blessed to be able to be an activist and an advisor to both abled and disabled persons. I am the Director for Audience Development at Artscape. I use my experiences to mentor company executives, government institutions how to overcome their fear to employ persons with disabilities.

My purpose in life is to highlight the lack of “humanity” which marginalized groups face on a daily basis in South Africa, especially by women and the disabled. I lead by example of living my life to the fullest.  I swim, I dance and I laugh at my inabilities and I love big.

My Motto in life is:  THE WORLD OWES ME NOTHING



  • B. Mus Degree, 1988 University of the Western Cape
  • Higher Diploma in Education, 1989 University of the Western Cape
  • B.Ed, 1991 University of the Western Cape
  • Diploma in Management, 2002, University of Stellenbosch
  • Diploma in Senior Management, 2003, University of Stellenbosch



  • Conceptualized and edited a book on women with disability called Look at Me, published by Genugtig. The publication documented, in essay and photographic form, assertions of the lives of disabled women, 2008 
  • Compiled a book “Place in the Sun” This book is about the icons of Mitchell’s Plain
  • Conceptualized and edited a book Wellington se Klopse  



  • Shoprite/Checkers Woman of the Year – Art Category, 1998
  • Desmond Tutu Legendary Award, 2001
  • Alumni of the Year 2003, University of Stellenbosch
  • Woman of the World Path the Way Award, 2004
  • Western Cape Provincial Award, Arts & Culture, 2005
  • Honorary Membership in the Golden Key International Honour Society at the University of Stellenbosch, 2007   
  • Alumnus of the Year 2007, for excellence in Management, University of Stellenbosch Business School, 2008
  • Served on the Paralympic committee, 2010
  • CEO Magazine Awards.  SA’s most Influential Women in Business and Government.  Recognition of achievement in the Arts & Culture Sector, (2010
  • Received the Ordre National Du Merite from the French Government, 2012
  • Received the Deutschen Afrika – Preis from the German Government for work done in disadvantaged and minority areas, 2012

Chaeli MycroftI was born in Cape Town in 1994. I am 19 years old and have an older sister, Erin, who is 21. I was diagnosed as being cerebral palsied at 11 months and at the age of 6 was diagnosed as also having a degenerative neuropathy.  In 2004 I founded The Chaeli Campaign with my sister and 3 friends in 2004 when I was 9.

I started my schooling at a special needs school at the age of 3 and was enrolled at a mainstream school when I was in Grade 3.  I gained my Bachelors Matric Pass with a B aggregate at a mainstream high school where I wrote all my own notes and attended school without a facilitator. I have just completed  my 1st year as a B Soc Sc student (Politics, Anthropology, Social Development, Gender Studies) at the University of Cape Town. I have made history by being the first student with a disability (who needs a personal assistant) to move into residence of UCT.  I have been elected onto the House Committee (Graca Machel Hall) for 2014, heading the Outreach and Transformation portfolios.

My extramural activities include cycling and running (quite innovative being a wheelchair user!) and Ballroom and Latin American wheelchair dancing. Much of my advocacy happens through writing which includes having written a regular column for Rolling Inspiration Magazine, the newspaper ‘Thisability’ as well as my own blog. 


Studying for my B Soc Sc  (Politics, Anthropology, Social Development, Gender Studies) degree at the University of Cape Town


  • In 2011 I was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize for my work and life as an ability activist
  • In April 2012 I was awarded the first ever medal for social activism by the Nobel Peace Laureates at their annual Peace Summit in Chicago
  • In 2013 I was welcomed by Rotary International as a Paul Harris Fellow (and became a multiple Paul Harris Fellow) when I received The Paul Harris Award [Sapphire]
  • In November 2013 I received the World of Children Youth Award in New York

Mache Smith

I am eighteen years old and in matric this year and I am the Head Girl of our school. Growing up without parents and facing my physical challenge was a tough journey, but it has made me strong and turned me into the young lady I am today (see my story under latest role-models).

I want to encourage the disabled, especially women with disabilities not to allow circumstances, challenges, differences and their fears to overpower what they want in life or take away the spirit of a winner.

I am honoured to be a Youth Ambassador for WAND (Women’s Achievement Network for Disability) that will be launched in August 2014. I am a determined, strong and positive young women and I will be committed to look for opportunities where I can support WAND to the best of my ability. It is important that disabled women and girls have are empowered so that they can enjoy their human rights. I look forward to study Journalism at a Cape Town University next year.


  • Western Province athlete 
  • Ambassador for my school
  • Leader at our Youth Group
  • TV presenter for a show that was broadcasted on SABC2 called T.M.S in 2011
  • Received a certificate for a motivational course called “I am a Champion” 
  • In October 2014 I will represent my school at a wine auction in London.

Janine Beukes

I am 15 years old and was diagnosed with Congenital Myopathy at the age of 3 years. This is a disease that causes weakness throughout the skeletal muscle, meaning that my muscles cause me to become weak.

During 2011 I was also diagnosed with Scoliosis and as a result of this, I have been attending home schooling. I also do a course in web design and I attend computer classes. I love doing art, crochet work, needle work, mosaic and knitting.

I have recently become a Youth Ambassador for WAND (Women’s Achievement Network for Disability) for the Gauteng area. The aim of WAND is to raise the profile of disabled girls by raising awareness of the challenges and achievements of girls with disabilities.

I am looking forward to be part of the WAND network as I will be given an opportunity to learn many new things. I am especially looking forward to meet other young girls with mobility impairments so that we can form friendships and encourage one another.

Thuli Matlala

I am a zestful, self-motivated, driven, working mother with a disability and passionate about people development. I am currently a Corporate Social Investment Manager and my work entails providing advisory services to corporates that participate in the Social Economic Development space. My passion for people stems from the adversity of paralysis at the age of 15 as a result of a stray bullet accident which rendered me paraplegic. This was later enhanced in 2001 when I participated in an exchange programme at Egmont College in Denmark.

I am a qualified bookkeeper, studied through Access College for the Disabled and also pursued studies in Business Management through the University of South Africa. I am a mother of a wonderful 3 year old girl.


  • awarded the prestigious Barloworld CEO award in honour of employees who have gone beyond the call of duty
  • awarded a “tribute award” which is an award in honour of women with disabilities that are actively involved in the development of initiatives and systems that are designed to uplift the general public
  • had my own gender column in a disability magazine
  • Vice-Chairperson of National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in 2006
  • Member of the Presidential Working Group on Women in 2008

Michelle BothaMichelle Botha is the blogger for WAND. 

She is a consultant, motivational speaker and writer in the field of disability. As a visually impaired woman she has a passion for promoting disability inclusion through frank dialogue and the building of healthy relationships. She has an MSocsci in Gender Studies from the University of Cape Town and has conducted much research focusing on the complex lived experiences of South African women with disabilities. 

Her business, Inclusion Focus Consulting, seeks to work in collaboration with the corporate sector to formulate practical disability inclusion solutions.

Michelle is also a passionate musician and enjoys using music to enhance her work as a motivational speaker. Michelle’s personal story of negotiating her disabled identity is one which combines frank engagement with the realities of struggle as well as her own particular brand of humour. She believes that engaging with disability can offer insight into the complexity of human experience and challenge the fixed lines we draw to distinguish independence from vulnerability.