Karen Smit : Commercial Business Unit - Vodacom
Categories: CHANGE MAKER
Meet the dazzling, dynamic, dynamite
Long before having my own family, from the age of 3 years, I have had to overcome many physical and attitudinal barriers. I was diagnosed with aggressive Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis that affects all my joints and I spend most of my first 15 years in hospital.
I am firstly a mom to my daughter and a wife to my husband. I truly treasure my family as their unconditional love and support contributes towards me achieving my life goals. I of course also add value to their lives, so we make a good team leveraging each other’s strengths.
Despite this disabling condition, I managed to dream dreams and set goals for myself, even though I encountered negative attitudes of certain persons. Unwritten rules and prejudice from society has constantly been saying “you can’t “ as some people chose to only see my DISability and ignored my abilities and potential.
Fortunately I ignored the naysayers and started creating opportunities for myself from a young age. I was often told that I “cannot” and “won’t be able to”. I was told that I will not be able to work; but I found myself senior positions, I was told that I cannot study; I went to study for the first time at the age of 29 and is now busy with my PhD, I was told that I must never get married as no man would be interested in me; I married my gorgeous husband and we have been in love and married for 22 years; I was told that I should rather not have a child; I gave birth to my darling daughter at the age of forty whilst walking with crutches, I was told that I will never have a decent career; I have had a few careers and the current is a senior management job at a large telecommunications company where I have established two divisions is currently heading up the Specific Needs Products Department.
I established my own Disability non-profit consulting company in 2006 called Professional Disability Services . My disability expertise besides accessible mobile technology includes disability employment and recruitment for employers and disabled candidates. I also have a project called Women’s Achievement Network for Disability (WAND). We are a few successful business women with disabilities who are giving back to disabled girls by showcasing to them that they are beautiful and that they can dream dreams and set goals to live fulfilled lives.
As my life developed I soon realized that my life journey is not dictated by the opinions of others. I realized that I have the choice and power to decide how I want to lead my life and what difference I want to make in the world and in other people’s live and society. This empowerment was the trigger that started my journey to self-fulfilment (being happy with ME firstly) and success.
My passion is to challenge people’s perceptions to think differently about people that is different from them. People that are different from you are not lesser of a person or is not less capable, beautiful or able (especially persons with disabilities). I enjoy doing talks and presentations as it is fulfilling to see how people’s perceptions are being challenged.
On a personal level my dream is to still travel lots with my family locally and abroad in order to experience diverse cultures and beautiful places. My “disability” dream is to get a volunteer event/project manager on-board that can assist us annually to grow our celebration and empowerment workshops for disabled girls (ages 13-18) and to present a spectacular event that will make them feel loved and worthy.
How I would change our world:
I will continue to be a catalyst of change by standing up and challenging people’s perceptions about persons with disabilities, and in particular disabled women and young disabled girls.
- I am a dynamic disABLED woman
- And love who I am
- I wear confidence on my face
- I am beautiful and unique
- This is me and I will continue
- On my life’s journey to
- Affect positive change of people and society.
Remember: You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion.
Commercial Business Unit
Principal Specialist: Specific Needs
Vodacom Techno Centre