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Balancing tradition and modernity in narratives surrounding contraception use among poorer women in West Bengal, India.
Unformatted Document Text:  2 Introduction Forty-eight percent of currently married women aged 15-49 in India practice some form of family planning, according to available figures (International Institute for Population Sciences, 2000). Taking the decision to control fertility is not an easy one for most women, as they have to consider economic, social and cultural factors while making the decision (Visaria, 2000). Women’s voices are not often present in the literature that surrounds family planning programs in developing countries (Ramasubban & Jejeebhoy, 2000). Most often the loudest voices are that of governmental policymakers, with quantification in demographic terms being the method of choice when dealing with population control issues. While quantification is essential when dealing with numbers this large, what is also essential is a perspective into women’s stories as they tell them. The project on which this paper is based involved interviewing women in state subsidized family planning clinics in West Bengal, India for their experiences with obstetric and gynecologic care and fertility control. Since independence, the Indian national identity (insofar as a country as diverse as India can be thought to have a national identity) has seen itself in transition to the modern world (Indian National Congress, 1949; Mahadevan et. al., 1989; Ram, 1996). The nation is in transition, in a sort of chronological borderlands between the old and the new worlds. The values of the old world are frequently in opposition with the values of the

Authors: Mookerjee, Devalina.
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2
Introduction
Forty-eight percent of currently married women aged 15-49 in India practice some
form of family planning, according to available figures (International Institute for
Population Sciences, 2000). Taking the decision to control fertility is not an easy one for
most women, as they have to consider economic, social and cultural factors while making
the decision (Visaria, 2000).
Women’s voices are not often present in the literature that surrounds family
planning programs in developing countries (Ramasubban & Jejeebhoy, 2000). Most often
the loudest voices are that of governmental policymakers, with quantification in
demographic terms being the method of choice when dealing with population control
issues.
While quantification is essential when dealing with numbers this large, what is also
essential is a perspective into women’s stories as they tell them. The project on which this
paper is based involved interviewing women in state subsidized family planning clinics in
West Bengal, India for their experiences with obstetric and gynecologic care and fertility
control.
Since independence, the Indian national identity (insofar as a country as diverse as
India can be thought to have a national identity) has seen itself in transition to the modern
world (Indian National Congress, 1949; Mahadevan et. al., 1989; Ram, 1996). The nation
is in transition, in a sort of chronological borderlands between the old and the new
worlds. The values of the old world are frequently in opposition with the values of the


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