DMU graduate recognised by Prime Minister with coveted award

A former De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) student has been recognised by the Prime Minister with a prestigious award.

Neelam Heera, who graduated from DMU with a Law degree in 2010, set up a charity called Cysters, which is dedicated to improving the health, education and welfare of women living with reproductive health issues.

Neelam Heera

She was chosen by Theresa May for a Points of Light Award for her tireless work in tackling the taboo of women’s reproductive issues and mental health in marginalised communities.

In a letter to Neelam, Theresa May said: “Your work founding ‘Cysters’ is giving women from Asian backgrounds a safe space to discuss their experiences of struggling with gynaecological health issues.

“You should feel tremendously proud of breaking down cultural taboos to ensure women can access emotional support and vital medical treatment.”

The Points of Light award recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others to do the same.

Neelam is the 1059th winner of the award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA.

“To be a recipient of a Points of Light Award is an honour, for which I am truly humbled and would like to thank the Prime Minister for the recognition,” Neelam said.

“I founded Cysters in 2015 to combat some of the misconceptions around women’s reproductive health, which can often be trivialised by healthcare professionals and sexualised by the BAME community due to cultural beliefs.

“What started as a social media campaign to vent these frustrations, grew into a support group for individuals with similar stories to a registered charity working directly with the community and giving a platform for younger women to become their own health advocates through our youth board.”

Neelam set up Cysters after suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis from the age of 18. She realised that talking about gynaecological health issues can still be a taboo in Asian and BAME communities and decided to tackle this by starting conversations with marginalised communities, so that others could make informed decisions about their reproductive health.

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The charity has since removed cultural barriers in BAME communities surrounding women’s health issues and tackled issues once considered taboo with a series of campaigns including Cysters’ Smear campaign, which dispels myths about cervical screenings.

Cysters also provide emotional support through an online group which is managed by Neelam herself, along with workshops and faith-based groups.

Neelam added: “I sincerely hope that our work educating women and the community about reproductive and mental health will help them make informed choices around their treatment options and healthcare, as well as providing a platform for women to be heard.”

In 2016, DMU graduate Jess Okoro was named a Point of Light for her work to increase the numbers of young people studying science, engineering and maths subjects. Rik Basra, who runs the Rik Basra Leukaemia Campaign, was awarded the honour for his work to encourage more people to join the UK stem cell register. Volunteers from DMU support his work across Leicestershire especially in schools.

Posted on Wednesday 28th November 2018

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