Our Story

About Us

The inception of the Umhlanga Women’s Association is a heartwarming and extraordinary tale. In the face of unrest in July 2021, a group of compassionate women from the Umhlanga area came together to cook and provide meals for the CPF members and those in need in the neighboring regions.

These women, who had lived in the same neighborhood for decades without crossing paths, found a common purpose in aiding, serving, and protecting their families. Through this shared mission, they forged a strong bond that transcended cultural, racial, religious, and belief barriers, uniting an inclusive community.

As they initiated deliveries of grocery hampers, food, and essential supplies to the less fortunate, they witnessed the profound impact of COVID-19 and the unrest on the vulnerable population. It was this revelation that prompted them to formalize the organization and commit to making a positive difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. Their executive committee is comprised of phenomenal women, and they consider it a blessing and privilege to work alongside them. For more detailed information about the UWA, please visit our website: www.umhlangawa.co.za.

The Umhlanga Women’s Association operates through 8 dedicated sub-committees, each serving a unique purpose:

  1. Community Outreach
  2. Women 4 Women
  3. Health and Wellness
  4. Women in Business
  5. Events
  6. Technology and Communication
  7. Skills and Training
  8. Youth

These sub-committees enable us to address a wide array of issues and cater to the diverse needs of our community. We remain committed to fostering a stronger, more connected society, where women’s empowerment and community welfare are at the forefront of our endeavors.

Our Mission as the Umhlanga Women’s Association is to

SERVE

As the charitable arm of our organization, our primary objective is to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate communities in the areas of Phoenix, Tongaat, and Verulam. Through our dedicated SERVE initiatives, we undertake various charitable projects aimed at uplifting the lives of those in need. Our efforts encompass a community kitchen in Umhlanga, as well as the distribution of essential items such as groceries, clothing, and counseling services. We strive to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals within our vicinity, fostering a spirit of care, compassion, and support.

EMPOWER

At Umhlanga Women’s Association, our unwavering commitment lies in empowering the Women in Business across Umhlanga and its surrounding areas. To achieve this, we are proactively engaging in initiatives that encourage and sustain entrepreneurial ventures within our communities, leveraging the potential of technology to drive growth and success. By fostering a dynamic environment that supports female entrepreneurs, we aim to foster economic prosperity and gender parity in the business landscape.

EDUCATE

We firmly believe that education and skills development play a pivotal role in bringing about transformative change for our communities in need. To this end, we focus on providing training, skills enhancement programs, and facilitating job opportunities for unemployed youth and women. Our aim is to equip individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge to forge a brighter future, ensuring a sustainable solution to the challenges faced by our communities. Through education, we aspire to empower individuals and create pathways for personal growth and development.

Our Mission as the UWA is to

SERVE

This is the charitable arm of our organization and we aim to serve the less fortunate community in the surrounding areas of Phoenix, Tongaat and Verulam. The charitable projects include a community kitchen based in Phoenix, distribution of groceries, clothes and counselling.

EMPOWER

Our focus here is to empower the Women in Business in the Umhlanga and surrounding areas. We are also embarking on an initiative to encourage and sustain entrepreneurial projects within our communities using technology.

EDUCATE

We believe that training, skills development and finding jobs for the unemployed youth and women is the key to a sustainable solution for our communities in need.

Our Vision

Our vision is to make a meaningful impact by catering to the needs of the underprivileged through sponsored feeding programs. Additionally, we aim to empower women in the business sphere by providing networking opportunities, and we are committed to nurturing the talents of our youth through mentorship initiatives.

By engaging in these endeavors, we seek to empower women through knowledge acquisition, collaboration, and a steadfast dedication to serving our community continuously, all with the ultimate goal of enhancing the well-being of humanity.

Our Exco

Praneetha Aniruth

Chairperson

Meet Praneetha Aniruth, a dynamic Tech Entrepreneur hailing from Durban, whose remarkable journey includes co-founding Carver Media and several other successful startups. Her diverse background spans marketing, broadcasting, and corporate insurance, providing her with a unique perspective on business and innovation.

For the past 15 years, Praneetha has been an integral part of the tech industry, carving her niche in Google Ads and Digital Innovation. Her expertise and dedication have made a significant impact, as she collaborates with both corporate giants and big businesses. However, her true passion lies in supporting small businesses by harnessing the power of online tools to stimulate growth, elevate sales, and maximize profits.

Praneetha is not only an accomplished entrepreneur but also a highly sought-after speaker, gracing numerous conferences and masterclasses with her insights. As a fierce advocator for women in technology, she actively promotes gender diversity and equal opportunities in the tech world.

Praneetha’s achievements have earned her recognition on an international stage. In February 2020, Harvard University invited her to contribute to a conference centered around the “Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Africa,” underscoring her significance as a visionary leader and a driving force in the tech and business landscape.

Bhavna Maharaj

Vice – Chairperson

Head: Women In Business 

Meet Bhavna Maharaj, the CEO and founder of Firebrand Holdings, assuming the role of Vice-Chairperson in our organization. At Firebrand Holdings, Bhavna spearheads strategy development and oversees all operations, including end-to-end management of the supply chain, sales activities, and support services. With a profound understanding of businesses, she excels at facilitating effective communication between clients, customers, and businesses, ensuring a seamless transition towards success.

Boasting over two decades of experience in both the public and private sectors, Bhavna has cultivated a skill set encompassing management consultation, team building, professional development, strategic implementation, and collaborative ventures. Her expertise is a driving force in the organization, fostering growth and progress at every level.

A strong advocate for women in business, Bhavna is passionate about empowering and supporting women in the industry. She dedicates herself to developing the skills of young women, nurturing a new generation of aspiring leaders. As Head of Women In Business, Bhavna continues to make a significant impact, empowering women to reach new heights of success and influence in the business world.

Karusha Naicker

Head: Events & Community Outreach

Meet Karusha Naicker, a proficient sales, marketing, and PR business consultant. With her expertise currently focused on the corporate sector, she is dedicated to serving the short-term insurance industry, notably contributing her skills to Discovery Insure.

With an impressive track record and a wealth of experience in the industry, Karusha has achieved numerous milestones throughout her career. As a testament to her leadership and commitment, she has held the esteemed position of President at the Insurance Institute of KZN, playing a pivotal role in representing and promoting KZN in the fields of education and community outreach.

Notably, Karusha is also a successful small business owner, having co-founded a Pet Food Store alongside her husband. Her entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to both her corporate pursuits and personal ventures highlight her drive to accomplish anything fearlessly, without intimidation.

Beyond her professional achievements, Karusha’s passion lies in serving those in need. With an unwavering commitment to community outreach, she continually strives to make a positive impact on the lives of others. As Head of Events & Community Outreach, she leads with compassion and determination, ensuring that her efforts benefit and uplift the communities she serves.

Marian Swart

Secretary

Meet Marian Swart, a highly accomplished individual with a diverse professional background. Beginning her career as a qualified nurse in 1970, she gradually transitioned into administration and, since 1988, has been deeply involved in research administration.

Marian’s contributions to the field of research are substantial. She played a foundational role in the establishment of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and served as its Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Training Manager. In her capacity as COO, she oversaw essential aspects of the organization’s functioning, ensuring good governance by managing day-to-day financial, compliance, operational, and human resource activities.

Her expertise in administering grants from various local and international funders is extensive, reflecting her proficiency in navigating the complexities of grants management. Additionally, Marian has actively engaged in grants management training, both on an international scale as part of an funder’s South African road trip, and locally, delivering workshops to institutions across South Africa and Africa.

After retiring from her distinguished career, Marian now dedicates her time and energy to various outreach activities, continuing her commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others. As Secretary, her experience and passion make her an invaluable asset to our organization, guiding us toward excellence in all administrative matters.

Nesri Padayatchi

Head: Health and Wellness

Meet Prof Nesri Padayatchi, a remarkable individual with a wealth of expertise in healthcare and research. As a Clinician, Epidemiologist, and Scientist, she has made significant contributions to the field of medical research. Her illustrious career includes serving as the Deputy Director of CAPRISA (Centre for the Aids Program for Research in South Africa) and as a lecturer in the Department of Community Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

With over 33 years of experience in clinical practice and research, Nesri has focused extensively on managing TB and related challenges. Her contributions have been recognized on numerous boards, including the South African National and Provincial Advisory Boards for MDR-TB, the International Union against TB and Lung Diseases Ethics Advisory Group, and the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society. She is also a distinguished member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Recently retired, Nesri carries a powerful mission statement: “when life hands you lemons, make orange juice,” exemplifying her resilient and positive outlook on life. In her journey, she firmly believes that “Depression is a luxury I can’t afford,” demonstrating her unwavering determination to overcome challenges.

Driven by her life philosophy, Nesri aims to utilize her life skills to empower and instill confidence in others. As the Head of Health and Wellness, she brings a wealth of knowledge and compassion, guiding our organization to enhance the well-being of individuals and communities alike.

Perusha Govender

Head: Communications and Technology

Meet Perusha Govender, an accomplished economic development practitioner hailing from Durban, South Africa. With a diverse background in business analytics, marketing, and communications, Perusha brings a wealth of expertise to her role as the Head of Communications and Technology.

Throughout her career, Perusha has demonstrated exceptional skill in developing and project managing business retention interventions, effectively assisting distressed businesses while creating platforms for expansion and job creation in support of the South African economy. Her comprehensive skillset encompasses Customer-Centric Design, Technical Analysis, Project Appraisal, and Digital Transformation, ensuring her contributions have a transformative impact.

A testament to her commitment to continuous learning, Perusha recently completed her MBA, focusing on Advanced Strategy and Investment, and Portfolio Management. Her dissertation explored the influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on SMME manufacturers in eThekwini Municipality, highlighting her keen interest in exploring cutting-edge concepts and their practical implications.

As the Head of Communications and Technology, Perusha’s adeptness in leveraging technology and strategic thinking will undoubtedly propel our organization’s communication efforts to new heights. Her dedication to fostering growth and progress aligns perfectly with our mission, making her an invaluable asset in driving positive change and innovation within our community.

Nothando Mvelase

Head: Skills and Career Development

Meet Nothando Mvelase, a dynamic and highly knowledgeable Enterprise and Skills Development expert. With a background in human resources spanning over 20 years, she brings a wealth of experience from both the private and public sectors.

A creative and strategic problem-solver, Nothando is deeply passionate about people development, with a particular focus on addressing challenges faced by women and the Youth. She actively works towards breaking barriers to entry for aspiring entrepreneurs, empowering them to achieve success. Additionally, Nothando encourages individuals to harness the potential of virtual and digital platforms, whether in running small businesses or pursuing career opportunities.

Utilizing her diverse transferable skills, Nothando excels in coaching and mentoring, guiding individuals to embrace digital and innovative platforms made available by modern technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI). By equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge, she empowers them to thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

As the Head of Skills and Career Development, Nothando’s dedication and expertise will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in transforming the lives of many, creating a pathway for personal and professional growth. Her commitment to fostering inclusivity and leveraging technology for progress aligns seamlessly with our organization’s mission, making her an invaluable leader in shaping a brighter future for our community.

Kajal Singh Bisnath Nandlal

Dr Bisnath has been a resident of Umhlanga for 14 years and is currently a Senior Dentist with the KZN Department of Health. After many academic achievements, Kajal took on a post in the Public Sector where she could truly serve all members of the community.

Kajal’s passion for community service and humanitarian efforts prompted her to get involved and support various medical outreaches and humanitarian initiatives including, but not limited to, those in aid of the South African Red Cross, Phoenix child and family welfare society and the Tongaat community health centre.

Her truly selfless commitment to adult and child wellbeing and upliftment, adds to the very core values of the Umhlanga Women’s Association.

Areshnie Sewraj

Areshnie Sewraj (nee Maharaj) hails formally from Phoenix. Qualified as an Occupational Therapist from UKZN and also obtained a Masters in Educational Psychology.

My vocational experience as an Occupational Therapist is positioned within the Departments of Health and Education. Currently, I work within the private sector. I am a dedicated occupational therapist assisting those in need to be as independent as possible.

Apart from being an OT, I am a wife and mother to two remarkable boys. I am very passionate about Education and I believe it is a key to empowerment. My other passion is Seva, serving those in need as it defines human spirit.