Ghada Hatem is a gynaecologist. In 2016 she created la Maison des femmes, a unique place that, every day, welcomes between 30 and 50 women who are victims of violence and provides them with comprehensive medical, psychological, legal services. Let us retrace the story of this special project and its individual driving forces – passion, solidarity and faith in the Hippocratic oath – which allowed it to see the light of day.
Leaders League. You are a gynaecologist and founder of la Maison des femmes, what made you embark on this path that is very focused on helping others?
Ghada Hatem. First and foremost, I had the desire to exercise my professional skills in the fullest way, by offering women comprehensive care. Added to this was the fact that I chose the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, where the patients I receive are largely immigrants, members of a more fragile community which have access to fewer resources. These two factors led me to act, so as to provide them with a listening ear and place where they could get the help they needed; a place where their opinions are welcome and lead to care and workshops to rebuild self-esteem, get legal support for if they are victims of violence etc. To be able to offer them an answer as complete as the one they find today in la Maison des femmes was really worth fighting for.
Did you have an uphill battle to get la Maison des femmes built?
It took a lot of effort, yes. First, it was necessary to convince the various stakeholders of the usefulness of the project, and then we had to obtain the necessary financing. It took a lot of time and energy. And this fight continues today to build an extension that will meet the growing demand by welcoming more women. For that, we launched a two-sided funding campaign by creating the Circles 100 women for women and 100 men for women funds. The goal is to receive 200,000 euros in donations.
What values got you through this period of personal and professional investment?
Values of benevolence, solidarity and citizenship of course and then, quite simply, the Hippocratic oath, which is based on the concern that one must have for others, the sick, the needy etc. The desire of our team and a strong collective need to succeed played a part. If these human values had not been shared by the team, the project would probably never have succeeded.
How important was passion in the success in this project?
Of course, passion has been an essential driving force. In a world so full of violence, so harrowing – women that are raped, circumcised, bereaved, undocumented, and resourceless – and faced with such an atypical project, nothing would have been possible without passion. Without this strong, entrenched belief that we had to hold on, persevere, and continue to believe even when we were faced with – as happened on several occasions – a lack of understanding and rejection.
Now that the project has materialized, what is your definition of success?
For me, success is living in harmony with one's convictions. It is to be faithful to oneself, to what one believes in. It is to be able to say to oneself: "What I do is compatible with who I am. Without this alignment of actions and values there can be no sense of success in my opinion.
What message would you like to convey to decision-makers today?
I would like to tell them that, when one is really obsessed by a project, a vision, and convinced of its usefulness, one must be determined to take blows, face refusals, accept compromises, beg for endorsements. You have to be ready to take the long way round, if you are to see it come to pass and, also, know how to surround yourself from the start with a diverse supporting cast, in order to multiply one’s chance of success.