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Balancing tradition and modernity in narratives surrounding contraception use among poorer women in West Bengal, India.
Unformatted Document Text:  13 backward thinking or unthinking, and too mired in tradition in a negative way. The decision to not have children was also seen as an act of independence, and it was contrasted with those who are not capable of taking such a step in their own lives. One woman in a village called Parui in Mogra Haat II said about her neighbor: “She does whatever they (the marital family) tell her to. So she went with me to get a copper T (IUD) and her husband objected so she did not. My husband objected too then, but I told him that I would (...) now I have it and he is ok with that. Sometimes women have to do these things.” As already discussed, younger women find it more difficult to take these decisions than older women. As their status rises with age, women become more comfortable with talking about families opposing them, and take pride in their own decisions. A woman of forty-one at Bangur said: “In that time it was unheard for a woman to do such things. But I had three children already and I did not want any more. So I came here and got it (the IUD) and did not tell my husband, he did not find out until much later, and he was really angry with me (…) but I had children already so I kept it. Today things are different” This sentiment is echoed by counseling staff in the PP clinics, who also agree that things are different today, but because the need to limit population has become greater than it was. Among the more important functions of the counseling staff is convincing women to space or limit births through the use of birth control. They use two distinct strains of argument (a) having fewer children is good for the woman’s family and her children, and (b) the nation’s prosperity depends on women having fewer children. Both

Authors: Mookerjee, Devalina.
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13
backward thinking or unthinking, and too mired in tradition in a negative way. The
decision to not have children was also seen as an act of independence, and it was
contrasted with those who are not capable of taking such a step in their own lives. One
woman in a village called Parui in Mogra Haat II said about her neighbor:
“She does whatever they (the marital family) tell her to. So she went with
me to get a copper T (IUD) and her husband objected so she did not. My
husband objected too then, but I told him that I would (...) now I have it and
he is ok with that. Sometimes women have to do these things.”
As already discussed, younger women find it more difficult to take these decisions
than older women. As their status rises with age, women become more comfortable with
talking about families opposing them, and take pride in their own decisions. A woman of
forty-one at Bangur said:
“In that time it was unheard for a woman to do such things. But I had three
children already and I did not want any more. So I came here and got it (the
IUD) and did not tell my husband, he did not find out until much later, and
he was really angry with me (…) but I had children already so I kept it.
Today things are different”
This sentiment is echoed by counseling staff in the PP clinics, who also agree that
things are different today, but because the need to limit population has become greater
than it was. Among the more important functions of the counseling staff is convincing
women to space or limit births through the use of birth control. They use two distinct
strains of argument (a) having fewer children is good for the woman’s family and her
children, and (b) the nation’s prosperity depends on women having fewer children. Both


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