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Girls Summit Gives Youth A Window On The World

Eileen Pace
Dr. Ruth Berggren and high school student Nita Tunga study photos of Haiti relief efforts.


Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said, “When women thrive, all of society benefits.” 

Dr. Ruth Berggren, a physician from the UT Health Science Center’s Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, says lifting women up means getting into their communities in countries of need, and her strategies start with community service learning here at home. Berggren will be recognized this weekend at the “Girls Global Summit,” an event organized by Women's Global Connection, a worldwide movement to empower girls and guide them to develop a global empathy.

“I really believe we need to do more to lift up the voices of women all around the world,” Berggren said. 

“Our Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics is here to engage medical students and nursing students from the Health Science Center and get them involved with community," she said. "And we have all sorts of projects where we allow a connection to form between our health professional students and kids.”

Toward the goal of helping women thrive, Women’s Global Connection has been serving in Zambia, Tanzania, Peru -- and San Antonio, Texas.

Nicole Foy is an organizer of the Girls Global Summit, which takes place this Saturday at the University of Incarnate Word School of Optometry. The summit connects girls from across the city, reaching out to them through school districts, the Girl Scouts and other organizations, and bringing them together for a day of group activities about girl’s empowerment -- and what it means to be a global citizen.

“I think gradually, as you expose girls to more and more of what the outside world is like, the better the chance they have of responding [to the needs of others]," Foy said. “So we’re really just kind of putting that carrot out there in a very substantial way, wanting to immerse them for a day in real-life issues of girls around the world.”

Nita Tunga, a high school student at Keystone School, was chosen as an intern to help lead this weekend’s summit. 

Credit Eileen Pace
Dr. Ruth Berggren views photo of Haitian children she treated after the 2010 earthquake.

“I visit India every year, and all my family is there," Tunga said.  “I work with a group there, a home for orphan girls. And I see how those girls are living compared to how we are and the things we take for granted. They are privileged just to go to school every day.

“My group [at the summit], from the International School of the Americas, is doing one in the military. They’re analyzing how the different cultures impact the roles that women play. And it’s amazing to see how the United States treats women compared to different cultures around the world," Tunga said. 

Dr. Berggren says hands-on experiences like Tunga's trips to India or spending time learning about another culture nurtures the empathy that is necessary to thinking globally.

“Even though what we’re doing on an individual level or in a community might seem really small and sometimes insignificant, there are ripple effects that make even our small and humble efforts great," Berggren said. "And so this is a quote from Robert Kennedy in the 1960s who was encouraging people in South Africa who had been fighting against Apartheid and racism.  He said, ‘Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.’”

Middle school and high school students will present the projects they have been working on since last fall, and the public is invited. The Girls Global Summit this Saturday is free. More information can be found at http://womensglobalconnection.givezooks.com//events/wgc-girls-global-summit.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.