Dr Ghada Hatem-Gantzer is an obstetrician-gynaecologist and head of department at the Saint Denis hospital, and founder of La Maison des Femmes, a place still unique in France. Since July 2016, this place welcomes and accompanies vulnerable women or victims of violence, and offers them a complete care pathway. Thanks to Ghada and her team, more than 11,000 women have already been welcomed, cared for and listened to. Read more about the portrait of Ghada, an inspiring, committed and strong woman.
You arrived in France at the age of 18: what was your background?I did my primary and secondary education at the French Lycée in Beirut and it seemed normal to pursue my university education in France. I lived in a small studio in the 5th arrondissement with a friend who had come to study medicine like me. I was aware that I wasn't there for fun (the civil war was still raging at the time and there was no question of having fun) so I worked hard to be admitted to the 2nd year on the first try, despite the numerus clausus.
How did you decide to create La Maison des Femmes, and what is its purpose?
When I took up my post as head of department at the Saint-Denis maternity hospital, I was struck by the precariousness of the population and the violence of the situations. As the space I inherited for the planning centre was ridiculous, I wanted to create a dedicated, beautiful place, somewhat separate from the hospital, to welcome women whose problems were too complex or too intimate to be dealt with in a standard consultation.
Where does your deep commitment to the cause of women and your pugnacity (that we admire so much..) come from?
This commitment goes back to my childhood, as the only girl in a family with three boys, in a world where the oriental culture prevails and where the place of women is rarely enviable. I hate injustice and closed futures, giving women other options was a necessity.
Here, of course, we are also talking about hair... and with all that this subject implies in terms of a (sometimes complex) relationship with femininity, self-esteem, and one's own heritage... You have a magnificent head of hair, where does it come from? And do you have a special relationship with your hair?
I have a "meta" hair inherited from my Arab chromosomes. It is so special that it has become a distinctive sign and of course I am very attached to it. As I get older, I have to take care of it, whereas when I was younger, I was happy to have zero care. My son has the same, nicknamed "The bush" by his friends, and my daughter has a more mixed version, less curly, which I find beautiful.
Through Shaeri, we want to help women gain self-confidence; many women have told us that they gained self-confidence the day they accepted their hair nature, their deepest nature... As someone who is confronted on a daily basis with the great vulnerability of women from all walks of life and all origins, how do you concretely help them at La Maison des Femmes on this path towards self-esteem?
Well, we work with the same idea, to accept the painful events in one's life and to do something with them. I recently discovered an exceptional woman, Edith Eger. I recommend reading her book "Edith's Choice" and let me quote her: "When we don't allow ourselves to mourn our losses, our wounds and our disappointments, we condemn ourselves to relive them. To be free is to learn to own what has happened. To be free means that we draw from ourselves the courage to dismantle the prison, brick by brick.
Last questions: what are your plans with La Maison des Femmes, and are there any plans to create others elsewhere in France?
Of course, we have plans to duplicate our model, which we strongly believe in because it seems to meet a real need. We therefore need civil society to support this deployment, both from a financial point of view and to strengthen our awareness-raising and advocacy actions with the public authorities, but also to become concretely involved with women, each with his or her own sensitivity and talents.
Shaeri ❤️ Ghada