WAND Founders

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