Our founder, Neelam Heera, started Cysters in 2015 as way to combat some of the misconceptions around reproductive health.
Neelam felt that issues around reproductive health can often be trivialised by healthcare professionals and sexualised by the ethnic community due to outdated cultural beliefs, male dominated spaces and patriarchy.
What started as social media page to vent some of her frustrations at her diagnosis and lack of understanding, grew into a support group for other people with similar stories to a registered charity. She then decided to leave her legal career, to upscale and grow the charity. The charity is inclusive and work with individuals suffering with reproductive and mental health issues, often tackling sensitive and personal subjects.
The growth has been organic and reflective of the cultural and community needs around reproductive health.
Since the inception of the charity to present we decided to hold on applying for funding. We wanted to grow a community and understand their needs before applying for funding to support this need. 2022 proves to be an ambitious year for Cysters, as they plan to apply for funding to support their already existing projects. We have relied solely on the hard work, dedication of our volunteers. Whether it is tackling period poverty, raising awareness of reproductive wellbeing or writing articles for us, each of our volunteers has been invaluable to our work.
We hope that with the continued growth, and our expertise in working with marginalized groups that we are able to acquire funding to upscale our work across the region.
In 2019 the charity decided to change its registered name from, “Cysters – Womens Support and Awareness Group” to “Cysters” – to reflect its commitment to inclusivity.
The logo was updated to reflect this change, adding in the strap line, “Taking up space, together,” as a reflection of the ethos of the organisation. Whilst we understand everyone has different barriers to healthcare or support, we want everyone to acknowledge that this is a respectful and safe space for everyone. Often marginalised communities are left out of conversations that concern them, they are not reflected in research, and they are never invited to the table to help make changes that will filter down to grassroots communities. Our logo reflects our need to create our own tables, reclaim our narrative and ultimate stand together to make a difference.
We cannot create change without each other, and we want to cultivate a community that is supportive, understanding and create an awareness of barriers for others. Recognizing privilege is the first step to supporting others with their journey, using our own privilege to create this space makes us proud to taking these steps amongst our Cysters. We are taking up space, together. We will no longer be silenced, our voices matter too.
The logo also has a “v” sign – representing Virginity. Our founder felt that this was a topic that needed addressing and has used Cysters as a platform to deconstruct the virginity myth, and reclaim our own narrative. Find out more about our founders views here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyOAIgkid9w
It has been these conversations which led to Neelam being targeted by trolls and receiving death threats by members of the community who wrongly believed that teaching young people about consent, healthy relationships, puberty and virginity encouraged them to be sexual promiscuous.
Neelam also sits on various boards across the West Midlands a Non Executive Director for Healthwatch Birmingham, again supporting the organisations outreach into vulnerable groups. You can find out more about the wider work Neelam is involved in via – Consultant – Facilitator | Linktree