Artscape CEO honoured for human rights activism
5 Dec 2019
Story by Benedict Leteane
The Chief Executive officer of Artscape Theatre in Cape Town has been rewarded for being an advocate for human rights, inclusion and openness.
Dr Marlene Le Roux was awarded the Fair Saturday Foundation Award in June in Spain.
According to the Fair Saturday awards committee, the Artscape was chosen for its “commitment to promoting essential values through its wide range of diverse and accessible programmes”.
Dr Le Roux has dedicated her life to community empowerment, youth and women development, and disability rights.
“For me these awards could have a meaning, if it means changing the perceptions of persons with disability, especially young girls and boys, and mothers in the rural areas that sit without resources. I want them to realise from my story that I also did not have resources; that you must fight for where you need to be,”, Dr Le Roux says.
A human rights activist, daughter of a factory worker, mother of one son (departed), Dr Le Roux contracted poliomyelitis at an early age.
Yet, she was determined to prove that she was not different from anyone else. For instance, she began her singing career at the age of seven in front of farm workers and factory workers. She attended mainstream schools, not hiding the calliper she was wearing. Furthermore, she was the first in her family to attend university, and began her humanitarian activism at the University of Western Cape.
“The university was where I could open up as a flower and at the same time be an activist and find my voice,” says Dr Le Roux.
She is a voice for people living with disabilities. She is a passionate campaigner determined to change attitudes and lives.
The Fair Saturday award followed the 5th Commonwealth Point of Light award which British Queen Elizabeth II honoured Dr Le Roux with in 2018, “in honour of her exceptional voluntary service promoting disability rights in South Africa”.
However, awards are not top of mind for Dr Le Roux. “I would like to be remembered as a positive person. I think for me I always say I am a survivor… a survivor of apartheid and disability in a very poor community; a survivor of living in a community that was not prejudiced against the disabled because its number one need was to survive. So we needed to survive. So, even at the mainstream school I needed to survive,” she says.
“I live with a positive attitude and it makes me realise that I can contribute to creating opportunities for others”, she concludes.