Adieu, 2020! 5 Good Takeaways from a Pretty Bad Year

Like you, we at FINCA are excited to have turned the page on 2020. Between the pandemic, social and political unrest, and natural disasters, it was a doozy of a year for all of us and for the millions of vulnerable people FINCA serves.

But as we plan for the year ahead, we’re also reflecting on the good things that happened in 2020 and the many lessons we learned. Here are five of our takeaways from 2020, with reflections on how these takeaways will enhance our poverty-fighting work moving forward.

Takeaway 1: FINCA’s clients are incredibly resilient

It was no surprise that FINCA’s clients stayed resilient in the face of the pandemic. After all, these are women and men who have faced adversity time and time again, and COVID-19 was just a plot-twist on their journey to a better future. Even so, seeing how FINCA’s clients reacted to shutdowns, to economic uncertainty, and to tragedy in their communities was nothing short of inspiring.

We saw clients like Eugénie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo start making face masks in her tailoring shop to keep her colleagues employed and her community safe from viral transmission. Clients like Aidah in Uganda cleverly use the resources she had to maximize earnings from her banana sales even during the nationwide lockdown. And thousands of others who adapted quickly to a new reality in order to keep their families and communities strong.

FINCA has always believed in the industriousness, creativity, and strength of our clients. What we saw last year reinforced that belief, so we never forget that our clients are capable of incredible things, especially when given the resources they need to thrive.

Takeaway 2: Our world is more interconnected than it has ever been before

The poet John Donne didn’t need to watch a deadly pandemic unfold on the nightly news to know that no man–nor nation–is an island entire of itself. Neither did we. But the swiftness with which COVID-19 spread to nearly every corner of the globe was a stark reminder that our world is more interconnected than ever before, and our collective actions have very real consequences for our global neighbours.

While our interconnectedness caused suffering this year through the spread of COVID-19, it also allowed us to respond quickly to the needs of people next door and around the world with relevant solutions, relief, and kindness. It allowed us to share resources and ideas, to encourage entire communities in their fight against the virus, and to recognize our heroes. As we look ahead, we’re mindful of our responsibility to our global neighbours and will remember how our interconnectedness has helped–and will help–us better share, grow and promote peace and equity.

Takeaway 3: Women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19

We know that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting women on multiple level including domestic violence, medical care, food security and financial inclusion. In particular, the majority of women in countries like Haiti and DR Congo are self-employed and work in industries that are hardest hit by government lockdowns. School closures, have also forced mothers to take on extra childcare responsibilities further impacting their ability to earn an income. As a result, the gender poverty gap is widening pushing more women into poverty with almost 20 per cent more women aged 25 to 34 projected to slide into extreme poverty than men.

This year, FINCA Canada projects 120,000 of its women-owned small and micro-business clients will be financially devastated by the effects of COVID-19. That’s why FINCA Canada is targeting our recovery efforts by launching The OppHERtunity Campaign on International Women’s Day. Our goal is to help women rebuild their businesses and strengthen their financial resilience. With your help, FINCA will provide micro-loans, business advice, financial literacy training, as well as the tools to help them better prepare for future crisis and continue to provide for their families.

Takeaway 4: Reliable data makes a huge difference

FINCA has always been committed to robust research and we were thankful to have a strong research and data science program in place when COVID-19 hit. We wanted to respond to the needs of our clients, and we needed to know how the pandemic and lockdowns were affecting them in order to respond effectively.

Our data science team jumped into action when lockdowns began in the spring with a client survey using our tried-and-true data validation software. Our extensive field network administered the survey with safety precautions in place, and our data scientists analyzed the results to make recommendations on FINCA’s COVID-19 response.

Those recommendations made all the difference in helping FINCA to respond appropriately to the challenges our clients were facing. For BrightLife clean energy clients, we responded with free energy during the lockdown period since earning income was impossible for many. For FINCA Ventures partners, we responded with more capital to help them fulfill their social missions despite global economic uncertainty. And for microfinance clients, we responded with more business advice, more digital tools to make remote banking possible, easy access to savings, and more flexible loan repayment terms.

We are still collecting data on the impact COVID-19 is having on our clients, and we remain committed to responding to their needs on the long road to recovery.

Takeaway 5: FINCA’s partners are radically generous

Last year was hard on everyone, and it would have been easy for one to stick their head in the sand to insulate themselves from the overwhelming sadness and need surrounding us. But FINCA’s supporters did the exact opposite.

You, our contributors and partners, were radically generous last year. In the spring we launched the FINCA Canada Emergency Response Fund to address the needs of our clients and we asked you to help. And you did. Your response was nothing short of heroic, and as we reflect on 2020, we are honoured and deeply grateful for your outpouring of support, love, concern, and compassion for vulnerable families and struggling entrepreneurs who needed your help.

Our takeaway from your generosity is this: there are better, brighter days ahead for FINCA’s clients, their communities, and the whole world thanks to you and the millions of people who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of others. Thank you for sustaining hope when it’s needed most and for being one of the best things about 2020.