The year 2020 heralded a lot of change and immense uncertainty. With this in mind, FAnews spoke to Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) President, Catherine Pienaar, about the year that was, and what GWII members can expect in 2021.
Q. Covid-19 has certainly put a damper on a lot of things. Briefly tell us about what the year 2020 has been like for the GWII?
A. No-one could have anticipated what 2020 would have been like. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on South Africa.
GWII endeavours to promote the networking of women in the short-term industry, and not being able to do so, in an environment which not only holds many uncertainties, but which has devastated businesses and the personal finances of many families, presented a phenomenal challenge. However, the committee is made up of a group of phenomenal ladies who have contributed with amazing ideas on how best to rise to this challenge – this emanated in a number of events such as quiz evenings, makeup webinars, the IIG/GWII women’s day function, an eight-week fitness challenge, as well as our CPD and Leaderwalk events being hosted online.
Q. Do you believe the Covid-19 pandemic has allowed GWII to evolve?
A. Whilst GWII was forced to evolve, in order to remain relevant, and found several different types of events in which to engage with our members, online platforms are not an ideal replacement for networking.
Q. A lot of things changed this year. What were some of the biggest changes for the GWII?
A. Having to deliver online events which would appeal to our members, under the constraints of lockdown, was certainly a significant departure from the usual events which we arrange. GWII had several new committee members join in 2020 – these ladies had only met the rest of the committee once, before lockdown. It has certainly posed a significant challenge to the newcomers, and highlighted the requirement for heightened communication and collaboration, under circumstances such as these.
Q. Going into 2021, what can GWII members expect, in terms of events?
A. I wish I had a crystal ball in order to know what will happen next year! GWII is proceeding to plan our 2021 calendar, knowing that there are still several unknowns. Whilst we hope to offer our usual broad array of networking events, CPD seminars, Mix ‘n Mingles, and Leaderwalks, such events can only be offered circumstance-permitting, and in adherence with lockdown requirements.
Q. There is still so much uncertainty around Covid-19, surely a lot of members are wondering what will happen in 2021. Will GWII be hosting more virtual events, are we going to go back to the normal way of doing things or will it be ‘an as we go along’ kind of thing dependent on the Covid-19 situation?
A. Having hosted a Leaderwalk and CPD event under lockdown, it is apparent that these events are particularly suited to online platforms, and thus, we shall continue offering the same, online, during 2021. The balance of our face-to-face engagements are being planned, with the full knowledge that they may have to be postponed or delivered as online events, in adherence with lockdown requirements at that point in time.
Q. Do you believe things will go back to normal in 2021, or do you believe things will take a while to go back to normal for our industry?
A. It would be foolish to think that things will return to normal in 2021 – COVID-19, and certainly the ramifications thereof, will linger for some time and we can only endeavour to establish some sort of ‘new normal’.
Q. Now that we have a little bit more clarity, do you have any last words you wish to share with our readers?
A. There is some irony in that we did not have the “20-20” vision in ever contemplating that we would experience a year such as this. With the benefit of hindsight, everyone worldwide would have changed their actions in some way or another, had they known what was looming. It has been a devastating year worldwide, with significant economic and social implications. Closer to home, the financial implications have been brutal, with small businesses closing down, and individuals being retrenched. Families have lost loved ones. Families have had to cope with working from home, whilst managing the home, and assisting children with online schooling. Our children have lost out on months of social contact, which at certain ages, is detrimental to their social development. Our future leaders – the Matrics of 2020 – have lost out on the opportunity to prove (and be rewarded for) their skills in their chosen sports and have had to battle the most difficult year in their educational career. Some are fortunate enough to still have Matric farewells being conducted, others not so much. COVID has permeated every fabric of our existence. It is now that we need to rise up and interweave in that fabric of little golden threads of hope, for a brighter tomorrow.