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The pandemic has shown us we are more resilient than we think

Covid-19 has had devastating effects on the people of South Africa and the world over. As the rate of infection continues to skyrocket, especially in our urban centres, people are starting to grow more fearful of what the future holds. 

This is on the backdrop of an already ailing economy where our country’s official unemployment rate surpassed 30% in June. Despite the government’s Covid-19 economic stimulus and relief package, the unemployment rate is projected to peak anywhere between 41% and 54% as a result of the lockdown. Projections by the International Monetary Fund suggest that debt repayments will account for more than 80% of our GDP by the end of next year. These statistics paint a gloomy portrait.

At the start of 2020, we never thought we’d be forced to retreat into our homes in an attempt to survive this ruthless virus, and social distancing wasn’t even a part of our lexicon. We didn’t anticipate such a sudden, severe threat to our lives and livelihoods. Adjusting to this new way of life and pervading sense of uncertainty has been challenging. It’s easy to lose perspective, to forget what we’re trying to accomplish, to feel scared and alone. 

The irony, however, is that the physical distancing forced us into a space of introspection, and we were able to connect on a deeper level with not just ourselves but each other. This sense of connection is what drew us closer together, because we were able to see that we might not physically be with one another, but we’re in this together, united in a common cause to overcome an invisible enemy. Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed – whether it’s about our health, children, finances or broader social issues – it helps to have a friendly reminder that adversity is a test of strength, and that we are much stronger than we think.

Metropolitan’s Three Word Stories campaign did just that. The radio and social media campaign ran on Ukhozi FM, Thobela FM, Lesedi FM, Umhlobo Wenene and Motsweding FM, which have a combined listenership of around 22 million people, and hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter.

By encouraging listeners to speak openly about their concerns, Metropolitan’s Three Word Stories sought to build resilience and inspire mental strength to help us cope with the stresses of a new and uncertain world. It created a much-needed platform for us to share our experiences and gain wisdom through our collective knowledge. The conversations emphasised that mental health is essential for our wellbeing. It eased our anxiety about the future by helping us find ways to navigate new challenges. Sharing our stories reminded us that we already have the fortitude to handle whatever life throws at us, especially when we’re there for one another. 

The voices we heard during the campaign spoke to our resilience, our shared humanity, our deep connection to everyone in South Africa and the world. We needed reminding. 

Jane Mokoena from Limpopo shared how – amidst the difficulties presented by the pandemic – she was able to use the time at home to reconnect with her children.

Anna Maake from the Free State said that the turbulent past few months were reminiscent of her humble beginnings. She was reminded of her innate strength and resilience, which helped her get through dark times before – and reminded her that she will again get through this. 

Financial concerns featured prominently in stories such as: ‘Smart Money Goals” Should we be trying to save more? How should we restructure our finances? How can we pull ourselves out of debt? What can we do to help others while we wait out the storm? How do we balance the need to stay safe with the need to earn a living? Hearing these fears articulated let us know that there are thousands of people in similar situations who are willing to listen and help. So is Metropolitan. Take comfort: we’re here for you and will continue to be for the long run.

But more importantly, we hope the insight we were able to share into the hearts and minds of ordinary South Africans during this campaign helped remind them just how strong, capable and resilient they are. Post-Covid our lives are likely to be forever changed, but what will remain is our ability to overcome whatever challenges we encounter. We’re all strong, but we’re stronger together, and even though we can’t always be with one another, we have more friends than we realise.

Continue to stay safe and strong, South Africa, and remember that the only thing we should be spreading right now is our love for our country, one another, our families and ourselves.

By Nontokozo Madonsela, Chief Marketing Officer for Momentum Metropolitan 

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