A leading reproductive and mental health charity has announced their inaugural reproductive themed event, Marginalised and Menopausal. Designed to shed light on the unique needs and experiences of historically marginalised communities during their journey through the menopause, the event will feature talks from a host of keynote speakers, including This Morning’s own Dr Nighat Arif, and Wolverhampton-based GP and educator, Dr Aziza Sesay.

The event – hosted by community led reproductive and mental health charity, Cysters – will be held on the 11th May 2024 in Birmingham (venue tbc). About more than just hot flashes and hormones, the event will address and discuss the specific needs and experiences of marginalised folk who have experienced, or are experiencing, the menopause, creating a safe and inclusive space to share.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recently announced that women going through the menopause would be offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as an alternative treatment option, or in addition to, HRT. While this is a step forward in Menopause treatment – the first update in almost a decade, in fact – many feel that it isn’t enough.

Hoping to rewrite the narrative and ensure that no one is left behind during discussions and decision making, Marginalised and Menopausal will be a safe and welcoming space for people going through this transformative stage of life to open up, share their experiences and connect with likeminded individuals.

Facilitating these discussions will be a host of experts, doctors and educators, including Dr Nighat Arif – Resident Doctor on This Morning and BBC Breakfast; Wolverhampton-based GP and educator, Dr Aziza Sesay; women’s health expert, Meera Bhogal; and Director of Women’s Health at Holland & Barrett and menopause expert, Lina Chan.

Discussing the event and what she hopes it will achieve, founder of Cysters, Neelam Heera-Shergill, commented:

“We’re so unbelievably proud and excited that we’re able to host this event. More and more we’re hearing about the varied experiences of marginalised people who are going through the menopause, but the treatment suggestions are always the same! This event will hopefully help people to identify what else is out there and bust a few myths in the process.

“We want to educate those in marginalised communities especially, not only to ensure they’re making informed decisions about their healthcare, but also to ensure that their voices are heard and represented in the conversation. We’ve got some great speakers in attendance so we’re certain it will be an event to remember – hopefully the first of many!”

Sharing her thoughts, Dr Nighat adds:

“Creating safe and educational spaces for marginalized groups around menopause is not just a necessity; it’s a profound commitment to ensuring every individual feels seen, heard, and supported. I am proud to be working with Cysters and to keynote this conference and wholeheartedly back this long-term project that strives to empower and uplift those often overlooked in the discourse on menopause. Together, we embark on a journey of knowledge, compassion, and lasting change.”

On her thoughts about the importance of spaces like this, Dr. Aziza Sesay comments:

“Ensuring there are safe and educational spaces for marginalized groups navigating menopause is a crucial step towards breaking down barriers and fostering true inclusivity. As a trustee for Cysters, I am immensely proud to contribute to this initiative, dedicated to providing every individual with the resources and information they deserve on their unique menopause journey. Together, we’re rewriting the narrative, ensuring no one is left unheard or unsupported.”

Notes to Editors

Set up in 2015 by Neelam Heera-Shergill, Cysters is a grassroots charity which focuses its efforts on supporting those with reproductive and mental health issues.

More than just a support service, Cysters uses its platform and influence to support its users in a myriad of ways; offering a supportive network for individuals with health issues to connect and share their experiences, collaborating with other platforms and networks to ensure users receive the best advice and care, and educating users to become their own health care advocates. They are also working with various universities and academics to ensure that research in this space remains intersectional of all the community.

Neelam Heera-Shergill:

Neelam Heera founded Cysters after facing her own battles with getting a diagnosis and care for PCOS, Endometriosis and PMDD. She saw first-hand the disparities in healthcare for people of colour and other marginalized groups, thus Cysters was born. Neelam felt that issues around reproductive health was often trivialised by healthcare professionals and sexualised by racialized communities due to outdated cultural beliefs, male dominated spaces and patriarchy.

The work Cysters do is always evolving to reflect the diverse population serviced; Most recently the organisation changed their name to show their commitment to the trans communities by removing the word “woman” from their name, with a logo that reflects the need to create tables dedicated for those in marginalised communities, reclaim the narrative and ultimately stand together to make a difference.

Neelam’s work has been recognised by the Pride of Britain and Point of Light awards from the Prime Minister and was named as ones of Birmingham’s 30 under 30.

Dr Nighat Arif is a GP specialising in women’s health, family planning and menopause care with over 15 years of experience in the NHS. Outside of running her own private practice, she is the resident Doctor on BBC Breakfast and ITV’s This Morning; is the Ambassador for Wellbeing of Women; and the recipient of the 2023 Prime Ministers ‘Point of Light’ Award for her work raising awareness of Women’s Health issues in the UK. Dr Nighat was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from City, University of London in recognition for her work with the UN backed Team Halo initiative.

Dr Nighat is the author of her debut book ‘The Knowledge. Your guide to female health from Menstruation to the Menopause”. It is an illustrated, inclusive book for all things women’s health available now.

Dr Aziza Sesay:

Dr. Aziza Sesay is an NHS General Practitioner, GP educator, Honorary Senior Clinical lecturer, public speaker and health content creator. She has a strong passion for health education, awareness, advocacy and empowerment, and channels this through her platform ‘Talks with Dr. Sesay’ – where she shares short informative videos, infographics, live discussions and tips on a variety of topics. Dr. Sesay is the Vice President and Creative Director of Black Female Doctors UK organisation, Charity fundraising lead for Keep it Fax charity, one of the Board of Directors of Prevention First Initiative, Trustee of Cysters Group charity, Ambassador for the Eve Appeal and Wellbeing of Women charities; and was a UN Women UK delegate for CSW 67 (volunteer role). She’s been featured on BBC News, Metro News, Stylist magazine, Women’s health UK and many more, and has collaborated with several different organisations including NHS England, DHSC, CoppaFeel!, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Black Women Rising UK, PANDAS foundation and many more to help make this a reality