Renu Paswan was born in a village in Bihar, to a family with small means and an SCST background. From a young age she experienced the ups and downs of village life. At home she had two brothers who were born with cerebral palsy and a mother who was suffering from mental health issues. “I am the eldest in the family, and from the time I was very young I had all the responsibility of running my house,” she says. Renu, a sensitive person by nature, was also aware of what her community and tribe were going through. “People in Bihar, especially from my community were suffering, and I wanted to do something about it,” she says.
While Renu was concerned about her community, her village compatriots did not extend the same sensitivity towards her. “In the villages, life is quite different, especially for women. Even at the age of 12 or 13, they want to marry you off. I remember I was in 8th or 9th standard, there would be people who would come to see me and push me for marriage. But I wanted to study and make something of myself.” And so, 20 years ago, Renu left her village to complete her graduation in Bengaluru followed by her masters at the University of Pune, eventually becoming a management professional at Infosys.
Despite all the challenges she faced, Renu’s enthusiasm always seemed to remain intact. “It is all about the realization,” she says. “I accepted that my life was going to be difficult, especially given my family situation. But instead of cribbing and crying, I wanted to do something about and spread my learning to other people as well. This was the start of something.” Inspired by her life story, colleagues at her work place asked her to share her experienced with others at the Pune campus. The talk became so popular that she was also invited to speak at the centre in Bangalore as well as a TEDx event.
“When I started giving talks, a lot of people approached me saying that more people would be benefitted if I wrote about my experiences as well.” And thus, Renu wrote a book named Live to Inspire in May 2018, which then expanded to the Live to Inspire Foundation as well as the Hope of Living organisation. Under Live to Inspire, Renu conducts seminars for educational institutions such as India Today Institute for Journalism, for bodies such as the All India SCST Federation, for NGOs such as Rose Foundation, Sindhutai Sapkal foundation and Mamta foundation in Pune and corporates. Under Hope of Living, Renu works with her village community back in Malighat, Muzzaffarpur, Bihar. Eleven female members are chosen from each block and amenities are provided so they can start their own businesses.
For her efforts, Renu received the Indian Achievers Award, titled ‘India’s First Inspirationpreneur’ in 2019 and was also invited to speak on gender equality at the Women Economic Forum in November 2019.
“The best advice I can give to people who are looking to make a change is to lead by example,” she says. “Even if you do a small thing, it is enough to change someone else’s mind. It is enough to motivate and change them.”
Giving Circle appreciates the spirit of this Changemaker. Let us all “Live to Inspire” ourselves and others!