Women Empowerment and Antenatal Health in India: A Novel Perspective Incorporating Self-Compassion


The research article, “Women’s Empowerment as Self-Compassion? Empirical Observations from India” authored by Tannistha Samanta, delves into a critical exploration of the relationship between women empowerment and antenatal health in the context of India. This study introduces a fresh perspective on the measurement of empowerment, advocating for the incorporation of self-compassion as a key factor. The authors argue that traditional measures, reliant on summative indices, fall short in capturing the complex and multidimensional nature of empowerment.


To conduct their analysis, the authors leverage data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) conducted in India in 2015-16. The sample encompasses 7,620 women who had given birth in the five years preceding the survey. Employing a structural equation modeling approach, the researchers rigorously analyze the data to test their hypotheses regarding the relationship between self-compassionate-based empowerment and antenatal care utilization.

Findings on Women Empowerment:

The study reveals a compelling positive association between empowerment grounded in self-compassion and various aspects of antenatal care utilization. This includes early initiation of care, ensuring adequate care, and opting for institutional delivery. The significance of this finding lies in its illumination of the importance of considering self-compassion as a pivotal factor in the measurement of empowerment. The authors argue that self-compassion captures nuanced psychological and emotional aspects that often escape the purview of traditional empowerment metrics.

Challenging Traditional Conceptualizations:

Beyond its empirical findings, the research challenges traditional conceptualizations of women’s empowerment, particularly within demography and economics. The authors assert that empowerment should not be viewed through a linear lens but as a dynamic and multidimensional construct evolving over time. This perspective prompts a reevaluation of conventional theorizing and statistical applications in the realm of empowerment measures. The call is for a more nuanced and context-specific approach that better aligns with the intricacies of women’s lived experiences.

Contextualizing Women Empowerment:

The study opens by underscoring the centrality of women’s empowerment and gender equity as essential national goals. Despite the international consensus on the importance of women’s empowerment, as established by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the authors note that conceptualizations and measurements in demography and economics have predominantly existed within a relational and family welfare context. This limitation, they argue, fails to encapsulate the multidimensional nature of empowerment, particularly its psychological and emotional dimensions.

The Role of Self-Compassion:

The research introduces self-compassion as a novel dimension in the understanding of women’s empowerment. Self-compassion, as defined by the authors, is “the ability to be kind and understanding towards oneself in the face of suffering or failure.” This definition highlights the importance of incorporating elements of emotional and psychological well-being in the overall assessment of empowerment.

Empirical Evidence and Its Implications:

With the empirical evidence pointing towards the positive association between self-compassionate-based empowerment and antenatal care utilization, the study underscores the significance of recognizing and fostering self-compassion in initiatives aimed at empowering women. This goes beyond conventional approaches that might primarily focus on economic or educational metrics. By emphasizing self-compassion, the study advocates for a more holistic understanding of empowerment, acknowledging the emotional and psychological aspects that contribute to a woman’s overall well-being.

Moving Towards a Nuanced Approach Women Empowerment:

The authors stress the need to move away from conventional theorizing and statistical applications in measuring empowerment. They advocate for a more nuanced and context-specific approach, recognizing the diverse and evolving nature of empowerment experiences. This aligns with the broader shift in academic discourse towards a more intersectional understanding of social phenomena.

Conclusion Women Empowerment:

In conclusion, the study significantly contributes to the growing body of literature on women’s empowerment and its association with health outcomes. By introducing self-compassion as a key factor in the measurement of empowerment, the research challenges traditional conceptualizations and emphasizes the need for a more nuanced and context-specific approach. The findings underscore the importance of recognizing the multidimensional nature of empowerment and incorporating psychological and emotional well-being in empowering initiatives. This research not only advances scholarly understanding but also holds practical implications for policies and programs aimed at enhancing women’s empowerment in diverse cultural contexts.

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