By: Aylenn Minaya (Translated by Allison Párraga)
“You know, Sancho, all these storms that befall us are signs that soon the weather will calm down and that good things must happen; for it is not possible for good and evil to last forever, and it follows that evil having lasted a long time, good must be near…”
-Miguel De Cervantes
UNEMPLOYMENT AND INFORMAL WORK
The lack of work has become a nightmare for many families and individuals. The current COVID-19 situation has forced us to live different realities, but there is one that has spread in one way or another to almost all families, making it a problem for entire societies and the world. We are talking about unemployment.
In Ecuador today, it is heartbreaking to see many families who have been left without work due to the confinement caused by the coronavirus. Several companies did not have the economic strength to stay open: many went bankrupt and others had to make staff cuts. Thousands of Ecuadorians’ livelihoods have been affected.
As a result, many people were forced to start working “informally” or even to undertake new activities that they had never done before, like selling food, beauty products, cleaning products, masks, and other products.
NETWORKS AND STRATEGIES
For some, this has turned into an opportunity. They have used technology and social networks to get their products out into the market. They are the lucky ones, and often, although of course a good work ethic is involved, their “luck” comes because they possess the necessary electronic devices and the knowledge to use them.
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to modern technology and the skills required to advertise their services and products through the Internet.
Many people in Ecuador have been forced out onto the streets, selling products door-to-door, as a way to eke out a living. It’s not an easy path. There are good days and bad days, as in all “jobs”, but in this case, if they don’t manage to sell anything all day, unfortunately, their family won’t have anything to eat.
It’s not hard to see that as overwhelming and desperate as this situation may be for Ecuadorians, it’s even harder for people living in conditions of human mobility ( migrants, refugees and others).
Such is the case of Martha (name protected). Last Thursday in our weekly Neighborhood Conversations dialog circle, we learned about the real and complex situations that many migrants live in our city and throughout the country.
Marta shared that she felt tense and stressed because she has not been able to sell anything all week. And this caused her stress because she doesn’t know where she is going to get the money she needs to pay the debts that plague her. In her own words, “I don’t have enough to pay for rent, food and utilities. Everything has gone down the drain this week.”
IF I HAVE TO DO IT, I WILL DO IT!
Martha’s friends, seeing that her situation was complex, had suggested she start doing other activities, like cleaning houses, which she did. For a while, things got a little better, but then she had fewer and fewer jobs. It got so bad that in addition to her own informal sales, Martha had to start sending her daughter out onto the street to sell cigars. They both went out tirelessly every day to sell their products, sustaining themselves with the hope and conviction that the next day will be better.
Her energy level has dropped considerably, but she mentions that she tries not to collapse, even though the situation she is living doesn’t help much. But she never stops looking for alternatives to get back on top. She takes advantage of all the opportunities that come her way. She simply cannot afford to say no. “If I have to cook, I cook; if I have to wash, I wash; if I have to iron, I iron; if I have to clean, I clean…”.
EMPATHY, COLLABORATION, AND PERSEVERANCE
Martha’s story of perseverance and faith in the face of an extremely difficult life situation inspired everyone in the circle, who shared takeaways on how important it is for all of us, as human beings, to help each other. One never knows when it could be us out on the street or facing some other difficult situation. Empathy allows us to put ourselves in the others’ shoes. As the Spanish saying goes: Today for you, tomorrow for me.
We learned a great deal from Martha, who no matter how difficult things got continued to think about new strategies. She helped us lose our fear of failure, by recognizing that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to resurge like a phoenix and achieve achieving your dreams.
In these cases, innovation is crucial. We don’t have the luxury of staying in our comfort zone, of fearing change. It is the time to embrace change and remember that in one way or another, it will bring good to our lives. Don’t be afraid to take that other step, which will surely be the one that will show a light at the end of the tunnel.