When Ria Mohan, a junior of Juanita High School in Kirkland, had to choose a topic of focus for a HOSA (Future Health Professionals) research competition, she wanted to focus on an issue close to her community — yet something that was not entirely visible to the public.
As a volunteer at Swedish Medical Center, Ria would often notice homeless people on the street and the encampments around the community. This would be the target population for her research on women’s health.
Specifically, she wanted to better understand the intersectionality between homeless women and menstrual health and sanitation.
To do this, she would collect survey data from 17 different shelters across the Puget Sound with the goal of trying to understand the state of menstrual health for women in these shelters and identify what resources were available to them.
What she found was that many shelters had little to no resources or ability to give menstrual sanitation products to women who needed them. Not only did they rarely have these products on hand, but they rarely received donations of these products, despite the fact that they are needed by women in the shelters.
Ria said she believes that the stigma surrounding menstruation and people’s unwillingness to talk about it is the reason why it has become such an under-resourced aspect of being homeless as a woman. She said the issue needs more public awareness brought to it, and women in these tough circumstances should be educated about their options and the resources available to them.
Ria submitted her findings to the HOSA competition and placed first at the state and internationals conference. She was awarded a $1,500 scholarship.
As she heads into her junior year of high school, Ria has already been making efforts and partnerships to increase both awareness surrounding the issue and the availability of these essential products. Ria has had discussions with groups like Seattle T2P2 to organize donation boxes for sanitary products that would be resourced to shelters in the area.
After high school, Ria plans on pursuing the pre-medical tract with aspirations of becoming a doctor.