Queen Honours South Africa's Point of Light: UWC Alumna Marlene Le Roux, Artist Extraordinaire and Disability Champion
University of the Western Cape (UWC) alumna Marlene le Roux has spent years promoting disability rights in South Africa, and championing a more inclusive society. For her efforts, she was honoured by Queen Elizabeth with the 5th Commonwealth Point of Light Award, presented to her on 7 February 2018 at the High Commissioner’s Residence in Cape Town.
“I would like to congratulate Marlene le Roux on receiving this recognition for the wonderful work that she does,” says Nigel Casey, MVO, UK High Commissioner in South Africa. “Not only is she an inspiration to people with disabilities, but she is hugely respected across the spectrum of South Africa, and is known internationally. Well done, Marlene, on being South Africa’s Point of Light.”
The Commonwealth Point of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a difference in their communities and beyond. Her Majesty The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, is thanking these inspirational individuals across the 52 Commonwealth countries: one outstanding volunteer from each of these countries will be recognised with a Commonwealth Point of Light award running up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018.
Le Roux has dedicated her life to community empowerment and disability rights, working closely with Archbishop Desmond Tutu to develop the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Artscape Theatre - the first woman of colour to hold this position - and has captivated audiences with her pitch perfect voice and stage presence.
Drawing on her own experiences - she was diagnosed with polio at only three months old, and her son recently passed away after his diagnosis with cerebral palsy - le Roux mentors company executives and government institutions on how to improve the working conditions of disabled employees.
“Marlene le Roux embodies the best of UWC’s principles,” notes UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor, Tyrone Pretorius. “She overcame great personal challenges and showed courage and resilience. Marlene used her experiences and education to change the world for the better.”
Le Roux, who graduated from UWC with a degree in education, has received numerous accolades for her work over the years, including the Desmond Tutu Legendary Award in 2001, the German-Africa Foundation Award in 2012, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite (the French National Order of Merit) in 2016.
“As a university community, we are proud to be associated with Marlene,” Prof Pretorius says. “She deserves every honour she receives.”
Championing the All-Inclusive Society
Le Roux is very familiar with the difficulties of living with a disability. When she contracted polio, it was already a very preventable disease - but the racist and negligent Apartheid medical system failed to protect her and many others against it.
“The acceptance of people with disabilities is an ever-changing and evolving process in all societies,” le Roux notes. “Historically, people with disabilities have been excluded from the majority of meaningful activities in society, including access to education, health and economic opportunities.”
Le Roux noted that the Point of Light award is an honour - as well as a responsibility, and a privilege.
“This award, I hope, will illuminate the civil and political will needed to create full access and equitable opportunities for all people with disabilities, and the families who provide assistance towards the ideals of an all-inclusive society.”