When student Neelam was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2015 and suffered a burst cyst, she turned to the internet for answers and support. But instead she was trolled and was told Asian women should not talk about sex.
She refused to be silenced and realised that women in her community needed a chance to be more open about reproductive health – which in turn would help their physical and mental wellbeing.
She said: “I wanted a platform for a sisterhood. And as this all started with my cyst bursting, the name Cysters made perfect sense.”
Neelam started an online discussion group to cover everything from infertility and pregnancy to period pain and sexually transmitted diseases, and was soon hosting ‘Chai and Chat’ community events in Birmingham.
Today Cysters is a registered charity and Neelam, now a lawyer, has broadened the focus to women from all walks of life.
Neelam, 30, said: “Anyone can come to us for support, whether that be from Asian, Caribbean, British, LBGT or transgender background. We are now especially finding a lot of issues and discrimination in healthcare when it comes to gay women.”
Cysters is also working to dispel myths surrounding smear tests and increase the number of women having them, as well as tackling period poverty.