Points of Light award recipient, Cysters Founder, Neelam Heera

British Prime Minister Theresa May has recognized Birmingham based charity founder Neelam Heera with the Points of Light award for her tireless work on tackling the taboo of women’s reproductive and mental health in marginalized communities.

In a personal letter to the founder of charity organization Cysters, 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.”

Neelam is the latest recipient of the Points of Light award, which recognizes outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others to do the same. Neelam is the 1059th winner of the Points of Light award, which has been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA.

Neelam Heera said: “To be a recipient of a Points of Light Award is an honor, for which I am truly humbled and would like to thank the Prime Minister for the recognition. I founded Cysters in 2015 to combat some of the misconceptions around women’s reproductive health, which can often be trivialized by healthcare professionals and sexualized 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.”

Someone who suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis from the age of 18, Neelam realized that talking about gynecological health issues can still be a taboo in Asian & BAME communities. She decided to tackle this and start conversations with marginalized communities, so others could make informed decisions about their reproductive health, which led to her founding Cysters. The game-changing 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 offers emotional support, an active online group managed by Neelam herself and workshops with faith-based groups. “I sincerely hope that our work educating women and the community about reproductive and mental health will help them make informed choices about their treatment options and healthcare, as well as providing a platform for women to be heard,” said Neelam Heera.

Over 6,000 Points of Light have been awarded in the USA, and former Presidents have publicly supported the partnership with Points of Light UK. There is a similar cross-party approach to the UK programme and MPs from different parties often present their constituents with their Points of Light awards.