The impact of the Lamosangu-Jri road on the life experience and reproductive behaviour of women of the Tamang community of Jetthul, Nepal
This thesis examines the linkage between road construction, female development and fertility among women of two rural Tamang communities in Jetthul, Nepal. Completion of the all- weather road between Jetthul and Lamosangu in 1980 created a motorised link with Kathmandu. Taking an integrated approach, aspects of development and female life associated with fertility decline are examined within the limitations of a post hoc study Using a combination of ethnographic and quantitative survey techniques, links are traced between the advent of the road and changes in female employment, urban and media exposure, education, autonomy in marriage and reproductive behaviour. Investigation reveals women have not become frequent road users. In maintaining subsistence activities and childcare, they remain closely bound to family-based, agricultural production within the village sphere. Although female contact with urban centres has increased since the advent of the road, it remains low, relative to that of men, the majority of whom seek waged employment outside Jetthul. Although school attendance has commenced among girls since the inception of road construction, rates of completion of primary school and literacy are very poor. Contact with mass media is low in the village setting, but since the opening of the road, young women have gained access to cinema and video in Kathmandu. Although the incidence of forceful capture marriage has declined smce 1980, there is no detectable increase in female autonomy in the nuptial process. While female age at marriage has increased, since road provision, there has been a significant decrease in the time lapse between marriage and first birth. This suggests the road has stimulated social change relatmg to intimate behaviour. Since completion of the road, little attention has been forthcoming from other development projects. Although the communities have received modest government agricultural and health assistance and have been visited by a mobile sterilisation camp, in-depth investigation at the micro-level has identified the inappropriate approach and subsequent failure of these limited programmes in Jetthul. This thesis demonstrates that in the absence of female-centred project support, girls and women of poor rural communities are not necessarily advantaged during the early stages of development initiatives such as road building. Furthermore, in addressing high fertility among the majority rural population, a more integrated approach is required at the community level, to more fully incorporate women and girls into the national development process and support fertility decline.