This paper investigates how poorer women in West Bengal, India balance the ideas of modernization and tradition in their choices to use birth control. Ideologically, Indian women have traditionally been placed within the context of the home and valued principally as wives and mothers. Children, therefore, are tremendously important for women within this framework. In contrast, the ideology of the relatively well structured and very large family planning program asks especially poorer women to have fewer children for the good of the family and the nation.

How do poorer, predominantly illiterate women balance these two oppositional ideas in an area that is of such importance in their lives? Qualitative feminist interviewing conducted in government family planning clinics is used to investigate how these women negotiate fertility control decisions with themselves and others, and how they place these decisions in the chronological borderlands between tradition and modernity in a changing world.

Author Biography

Devalina Mookerjee, Senior Research Fellow, Public Report on Health; Council for Social Development, New Delhi