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Emily Welker, Published March 08 2014

Fargo-area women talk global impact

FARGO – At first glance, it could be a chat among any group of women friends: The subject is money, and the conversation included jobs, spouses, kids, hopes, fears and shopping.

Communicate and share with your partner about your finances, the consensus went – but don’t forget to have access to your own money, too.

“Back in the old days, the woman wouldn’t know anything. The man would take care of everything – and I don’t think that’s good,” observed Debra Leslie, who was there with her daughter, daughter-in-law and best friend.

But then the announcer with the microphone stopped by their table, and asked what each group decided during their conversation.

The 15-minute roundtable discussions followed a presentation by financial professional Hannah Sorenson, who gave the group of a hundred or so women tips on financial fluency, insurance and retirement.

They’re vital skills women are often lacking, Sorenson pointed out. Women outlive men, but traditionally earn less during their lifetimes.

“Think about what if you didn’t come home tomorrow?” said Sorenson. “What would your family lose?”

Sorenson’s speech was one of several, with topics ranging from fitness to self-defense to business leadership, at the Women’s Impact “Fearless” event in honor of International Women’s Day.

The event, developed by Women’s Impact founder Chris Linnares, came shortly after Linnares made a trip home to her native Brazil, where she grew up celebrating the holiday.

“It’s proven – when you give an opportunity for women, we give back more,” said Linnares.

The presentations were preceded by a panel of female leaders and educators from the region, who discussed the theme “Be Free.”

The focus needed to be global as well as local, panelists said.

Several panelists agreed women around the world won’t achieve freedom without better access to books, schools and libraries – not least of which so they can pass on their knowledge and educations to their children.

The panel struck a somber note at one point with panelist Deb Dawson, whose organization African Soul, American Heart is reeling from news its boarding school in south Sudan for orphaned girls was just ransacked by Sudanese rebels.

Just 29 of the 34 girls have been accounted for so far, said Dawson.

“If women are not educated, you cannot grow a middle class in your society,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541