UKZN students Ms Andisiwe Jukude and
Ms Thuthukile Mbatha.

UKZN School of Built Environment and Development Studies students Ms Thuthukile Mbatha of Population Studies and Ms Andisiwe Jukude of Development Studies were jointly awarded a trophy for the Top Student paper at the Population Association of South Africa Conference (PASA) at the University of Venda recently.

Their paper was titled: “The Collision of Human Rights and Forced Marriages: a Case Study of Umzimkhulu”.

The paper is based on Mbatha’s masters dissertation which focuses on forced marriage (ukuthwala) through the experiences of women and the reproductive consequences of this action.

Asked about her feelings on receiving the award, Jukude said, ‘It is overwhelming, humbling and astonishing! We did not expect it at all. Moreover, it was a challenging paper to write and gather research on. So when we won, it just proved we were heading in the right direction.’

Mbatha pointed out that not much had been written on ukuthwala. ‘Available reference material is inadequate  and  only looks at the practice from a human rights point of view – experiences especially reproductive ones are neglected. So we are still adding information on an under-researched issue, which has become more prevalent recently in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape,’ she said.

Both the students said conferences such as PASA’s were important for building character and helping develop critique for one’s own work and that of others.

‘In conferences they ask you questions on your research. You need to be able to answer these on the spot which is not easy. Moreover, you also get negative comments and you have to take them in a scholarly fashion. So they really build character, especially for young researchers,’ said Jukude.