‘This topic is close to my heart. As a person who grew up in a rural area, seeing young women falling pregnant and dropping out of school at a very young age, I thought about the causes and facilitating factors of such a problem especially because contraceptives are provided for free in South Africa. Statistics had shown the white population to have low teenage pregnancies and high contraceptive rates. I saw them as the right group to gain insights from and try to implement similar ways among other population groups,’ explained Zulu.
One of the key findings of her study was that contraceptives are not only used to prevent pregnancy, but have health benefits, such as regulating periods and being used in tandem with skin medication for women with acne.
She hopes her study will encourage further research: ‘The insights gained can be a starting point for implementing programmes that will help all population groups experiencing high levels of teenage and unwanted pregnancies as well as low contraceptive rates.’
Obtaining her Masters degree was no easy task. ‘I struggled with registration fees for two years and had to sell my laptop. In my third year, I battled depression. I wanted to quit however, by God’s grace I never went to bed on an empty stomach and resolved to complete my degree,’ Zulu said.
She advises other students to have a support system and to be resilient. She thanked her family, friends and supervisor Professor Pranitha Maharaj for their encouragement.
Zulu plans to launch a non-profit organisation to disseminate information on contraceptives to young people and to help them overcome their difficulties in order to reach their full potential.