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In rural India, it’s not just the parents who decide how many children to have

Family members apply makeup on an Indian bride before a mass marriage ceremony for eight couples in New Delhi, India, Friday, March 8, 2019. Mass weddings in India are organized by social organizations primarily to help economically backward families who cannot afford the high ceremony costs as well as the customary dowry and expensive gifts that are still prevalent in many communities. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

In communities around the world where access to information might be restricted for any number of reasons—the United Nations estimates that half the world’s population is not connected to the internet—in-person social networks can be a key source of connection and knowledge-sharing. But when access to these offline social circles is also restricted, the way it can be for women in strict patriarchal societies, the people with whom women do interact become all the more influential.

Women in parts of rural India have only one or two peers in their districts, and even fewer close friends—social connections that are often restricted by the woman’s mother-in-law, according to a first-of-its-kind study by a team of researchers that included Northeastern assistant professor Catalina Herrera-Almanza.

“Women in developing countries tend to have worse access to health services than those in developed countries,” says Herrera-Almanza, an assistant professor of economics and international affairs at Northeastern, who helped design the study and analyze its results. “We’re interested in how to improve that access.”

Read more on News@Northeastern.

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