While conversations around menopause are thankfully becoming more frequent, experts are asserting that women from marginalised communities are still being left without a voice. With a lack of research and support for the unique experiences of marginalised women, a harsh reality is being exposed: menopause equality is far from being achieved. 

Despite menopause affecting 51% of the world’s population, the research in the area is broad, rarely exploring the different experiences of those in marginalised communities. From a lack of representation of ethnic minority women in education resources; to advice and support services that pose language barriers: experts warn that many marginalised women don’t identify with the ‘typical’ menopausal narrative and are not accessing vital support, leading to an inequality in care for these communities.  

Championing the change needed for health equality is Cysters, a leading reproductive and mental health charity. Having hosted its inaugural event on the topic, Marginalised and Menopausal, on 11 May, the charity highlighted the fact that women from marginalised communities often experience a disproportionate burden during menopause. 

The event hosted esteemed guests, such as Dame Lesley Regan, the UK’s first Women’s Health Ambassador for England. Her presence ensured the conversation extended beyond awareness and delved into practical steps like health initiatives and future policies. Celebrated healthcare professionals Dr. Nighat Arif, Resident Doctor on This Morning, and Dr. Aziza Sesay, a GP and educator, also offered invaluable medical expertise, enriching the discussion. 

Giving insights into the challenges met due to lack of research, Dr. Nighat Arif shared: 

The biggest issue that marginalised communities face is the fact that they’re under-researched, meaning we don’t have the clinical data to back up any health initiatives that we want to use for them. These groups are then rarely invited to the place of the table to make policies or give advice on policies, and assumptions are placed on them. When those communities are left out of those conversations when it comes to women’s health, they don’t feel represented and feel that they don’t have any trust in mainstream healthcare.” 

Dr Sesay Aziza expands: 

We have so many nuances that exist within our communities. There’s a lot of shame. There’s a lot of stigma, a lot of taboo and embarrassment. These conversations are never happening, because it’s always brushed under the carpet, or it’s seen as insignificant and something that women should just endure. It’s just not spoken about at all and people are suffering in silence. It’s because of these things that this event exists in the first place, as we need to inject awareness into communities.” 

Meera Bhogal, 55 from Middlesex, lived this firsthand: having started to experience perimenopause symptoms in her 30s, Meera was concerned, but due to the lack of discussions around the topic, she didn’t acknowledge them until much later. Now she works to support those experiencing menopause, as well as facilitate conversations in communities where menopause isn’t being discussed. 

Meera shares her story, explaining:  

I started my menopause journey in my late 30s and the earliest actual memory of it was on my 40th birthday when I struggled to go to my party because of my hair loss and loss in confidence. For the following 10 years, I was in perimenopause struggling with every symptom that was listed on the symptom checker. It was lonely and I didn’t know I was going through it until I was 45/46. Even when I knew, because of my own research, I was told time and again I was too young.  

“No one talked about menopause in my community or even in my family. I was told to stop talking about what I was going through and that I should just get on with it. It becomes a lonely experience where you are made to feel that there is something wrong with you. Raising awareness around the impact of menopause within different populations is vital so that we get more data, more research, more targeted and informed treatments, and a change to how women’s health is viewed.”  

Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters and organiser of the event, expands on the reason behind the event, stating: 

It’s clear that many share our concern about the lack of awareness and resources surrounding menopause, especially for women in marginalised communities. By creating a space for open discussion and bringing together passionate individuals, we can begin to dismantle the stigma and ensure every woman has access to the information and support they need to navigate menopause with confidence. We’re excited to continue this conversation through future events and translate it into tangible change.” 

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