A law graduate said the opportunities at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) provided her with the foundation for her career.
Neelam Heera began working in law but fell into starting her own business, a charity called Cysters charity.
Cysters started in 2015 as a way to combat some of the misconceptions around reproductive health. Neelam felt that issues around women’s reproductive health can often be trivialised by healthcare professionals and sexualised by the ethnic community due to their cultural beliefs.
Neelam said: “Law fascinated me from a young age. My mum was a Psychologist and used to attend court to take expert witness statements.
“I came to an open day at DMU, I remember leaving Huddersfield at 5am that day and I met a girl on the train who chose to do the same course as me.
“I liked the campus, everything was in one place. I was nervous about moving away but DMU was easy and accessible. I liked the uni, it was familiar and comfortable.
“I started the Law LLB (Hons) in 2007 and during that time I was Chair of the Student Action for Refugees group and Vice Chair of Amnesty International.
“As I was studying Immigration Law I found these very helpful. I went to London from a legal point of view to the offices for Student Action for Refugees. I met with a different set of people.”
While on the course, Neelam explained: “I did the legal pro bona clinics with a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. This is usually for Legal Practice Course (LPC) students but because I studied a specific module I was allowed to do it. It was a learning curve with real issues.”
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When asked if studying at DMU helped her career, Neelam said: “There are a lot of opportunities at DMU, I was doing client facing work from a young age, I got involved with student groups and I got work experience easily which led me to my first job.
“DMU also paid for a second course I did, a Level 5 Institute of Leadership and Management course as a result of leading student groups, it was really useful.”
Before Neelam graduated in 2010, she already had a job as a Paralegal at BHB Law in Coventry.
She explained: “I was there for a couple of years before I moved to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors in 2014. I worked in travel litigation while completing the LPC part time.
“I realised working for a big firm was not for me, but if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been encouraged to go networking.”
In 2015 Neelam started a community group and by 2018 Cysters was registered as a charity.
“It just happened for me,” explained Neelam. “What started off as a support group on social media grew in popularity. I have put Cysters first so my legal career has been held back.
“Cysters now has community health workshops and we work with universities where the issues can start.”
Neelam said: “A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the Department of Digital Culture. It was a letter from the Prime Minister Teresa May saying I had received the Points of Light award.”
The Points of Light award recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others to do the same.
She was chosen by Theresa May for her tireless work in tackling the taboo of women’s reproductive issues and mental health in marginalised communities.
“I was taken a back, I didn’t realise people were looking at what we do, it was really nice, all a bit surreal. I now have the opportunity to work with the Cabinet.
“I would still like to qualify as a Solicitor but it will be a little bit hard at the moment as the charity is doing well.”
Neelam’s message to students is: “Take every opportunity at university, there are a lot of opportunities like #DMUworks. If I did it again, I would take more opportunities than I already did.
“DMU is hands-on, I wish I did more with it. I genuinely enjoyed what I did. If I was conscious that it would help my career I would have done more.”
Posted on Friday 4th January 2019