Earlier this year BBC journalist Naga Munchetty (English Literature and Language 1997) stepped into the unknown. For two decades she had told other people’s stories, but on her Radio 5 Live show she finally told her story.
At the start of her show, she addressed her listeners. “Right now as I sit here talking to you, I am in pain. Constant, nagging pain.” Naga went on to describe her lifelong struggle with a condition affecting her uterus called adenomyosis. It went undiagnosed for years, with Naga frequently being told by doctors “you’re just unlucky”.
“I was putting myself out there and was very nervous,” she said. “The day before we did the piece I had a wobble about whether to share. That weekend we had to call an ambulance because I was in too much pain.
“But the fact is, I have a platform. It wasn’t about me. If I’m not getting answers, as someone who pushes and questions everything my gynaecologist says – and doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer – then what about everybody else?”
Women’s health has been neglected. We want to be heard and treated as soon as possible.
Naga’s step into the unknown has shed light on the misunderstood condition. It is now thought about one in 10 women suffer with debilitating pain due to adenomyosis, but it is feared many remain undiagnosed.
“The problem with women’s health advice is it’s so bitty,” Naga said. “You see a different GP each time, then you’re referred for a scan, then you’re sent somewhere else. There’s no continuous treatment.”
She is now using her national platform as a journalist to campaign for a change in the way women’s health is treated. And she first discovered her passion for journalism while studying at Leeds.
“My job is to hold those in power to account. That started at Leeds Student.”
After being a musician in her teens, she had to give her trumpet back to the Inner London Education Authority before embarking on her English course at Leeds. With the loss of her first passion, music, she needed to “find a tribe” at university. As a strong writer, she thought she'd try her hand at writing for Leeds Student, and soon her insatiable curiosity was fed by her extracurricular journalistic sleuthing.
“I started thinking about how I could write a story that mattered to students – how do we make them care?
“A viewer recently gave me the best compliment of ‘you always ask the questions we want to ask’. You serve your audience – you find a story, and infect others with your curiosity. That’s what I learnt at Leeds.”
1 in 10 women are thought to have adenomyosis, yet it can often go undiagnosed for years.
Naga is one of the most recognisable faces in the UK, as a regular presenter on BBC Breakfast. But she is now a campaigner.
In October she spoke at the UK Commons Womens and Equalities Commission, where she described the “woefully misunderstood, ignorance, stigma and shame” surrounding women’s health. She said: “Women’s health has been neglected. We want to be heard and treated as soon as possible – and we want women to be confident that they will be believed.
“It’s not just for adenomyosis, but it’s about us being treated with respect and not just accepting the nonsense we are given.”
Hear more from Naga in our Leeds Voices podcast episode.