This year the world saw Malala Yousafzai share the Nobel Peace Prize for defying the Taliban on her quest for education for girls. We witnessed the militant Boko Haram enslaving girls to prevent their education. As I see all of these violent attempts to withhold education and empowerment from young women, I know exactly what I am thankful for this year. I am grateful I was raised by a trailblazing feminist: my dad.
He was born in 1947 into a newly independent India. I believe that somehow the spirit of this free Mother India was woven into the fabric of his being. He bravely led with his heart and was the first person in his family to defy strict tradition and have a “love marriage” versus an “arranged marriage.” He refused to let anyone tell him how to live his life, eschewing the dictates of fear.
So when his first-born was a daughter, he decided to break the cycle of patriarchy that denied so many Indian women the ability to have any choice in their own future. Since the day I was born, my dad encouraged me to find my own strength, follow my own heart, and live my own life.
My father wasn’t naive to the gender inequalities I would continuously face as I grew up, so one factor in my life became non-negotiable: my education. He knew a solid education was liberating, inalienable and enduring. It was the key to maximizing my full potential and protecting independence.
It was the one gift I could be given that could not be taken from me.
Because of my father’s courage, vision, and pioneering feminist spirit, I now have two university degrees. I’m building a career and life for myself on my own terms. And perhaps most importantly, I’m able to be in relationships where love and respect are the only reasons to stay.
My father, Naren Simone, paved the way for me, and for that I am thankful.
Hannah Simone is an actress known for her role as Cece on FOX’s New Girl.