One of the greatest aspects of meeting someone from across the globe is being able to learn about their culture. Yesterday, we got the opportunity to interview a 42-year-old SOVA trainee who was willing to answer some questions about family planning in Odisha. At the age of 21, the woman entered an arranged marriage- in Odisha, arranged marriages are more common than ‘love marriages’, as families want to ensure that their children are with someone that they approve of. Common criteria for finding partners for an arranged marriage includes being in a good monetary situation, having a similar family background and social class and not drinking alcohol. The woman mentioned that her father wanted her to marry “as soon as possible” as he wanted her to be in a stable situation- something that she didn’t have in her own family.
Soon after marrying, the woman had her first child- a son. In Odisha, couples typically pray for a son for their first birth. A tradition is to eat tea roots in the hopes that they will be blessed with a male child. If the first birth results in a daughter, couples will try one or two more times to get a son.
However, couples don’t usually plan their first pregnancy. The woman mentioned that a common saying in Odisha is “first child is unplanned”; a belief that using birth control before the conception of the first child causes infertility means that many couples avoid birth control and unintentionally get their first pregnancy.
Partaking in conversations in which I am able to be exposed to differences in the lives of those of other cultures is what I have valued most from our stay with SOVA. In particular, it is intriguing to see the varying ways that people treat marriage, children and birth control. Despite advancements in medicine across the globe, it is clear that cultural value and traditions still hold a strong place in people’s minds.