National Women’s Day South Africa may for some represent nothing more than a welcomed holiday (we don’t blame you). But South African National Women’s Day is also a powerful reminder of the great strides we have made together as a country - and inspires progress where work still needs to be done! Here at Brand Innovation we believe Women’s Day offers a perfect opportunity to celebrate our rich history and acknowledge the trailblazing South African women all around us.
Amongst all the manicure specials and fun runs that take place on August 9th, the origins and powerful meaning behind National Women’s Day run the risk of fading in to obscurity. Where does this holiday originate?
What is National Women’s Day?
The history of Women’s Day is pretty well documented, and explains what National Women's Day is. But in case you skimmed through the history books a little too lightly it is important touch on just why this day is so significant (because it is!).
In South Africa, National Women’s Day is celebrated annually on the 9th of August in order to commemorate the historical women’s march that took place on the same date in 1956. This march saw a force of 20 000 women of all races march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest amendments to the law requiring black South Africans to carry a “pass”.
The protest was headed up by struggle icons and general badass ladies Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams in an unprecedented display of the power of united women.
The marchers left petitions with 100 000 signatures in their wake and the iconic song Wathint' Abafazi Wathint' imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock). The song was especially composed for the event and still remains a classic amongst struggle songs.
The day was officially made a national holiday in 1994 by the new ANC government to reflect on and celebrate the events of August 9th 1956.
Why do we celebrate Women's Day in South Africa?
So a cool thing happened on August 9th more than 60 years ago… why should we still care today? Why do we celebrate Women's Day in South Africa?
For one thing, there is a strong argument that we should draw attention to and acknowledge significant events in our country’s history. Events such as the1956 Women’s March instigated the change that led to the freer and more equal South Africa we live in today. It is important that we fully understand our origins as a country, and celebrate just how far we have come. Women’s day brings these significant historical events into our dinner table conversation in the 21st century. So we get to simultaneously celebrate South African history and a day off!
It is of course not only about commemorating the women of 1956. The history aside, National Women’s Day serves many other important purposes. Since 1994 the day has been used as an opportunity to focus on women’s issues. It gives a voice to the women of today and the struggles they experience.
Unfortunately the fight for gender equality is far from over! South Africa ranks pretty badly in many areas with regards to the wellbeing of women. We have some of the worst statistics when it comes to female illiteracy, domestic violence, the wage gap and sexual violence.
It is essential that we have a day to turn the national attention towards these important issues, so that we can collectively recommit to positive change. Needless to say Women’s Day is often day surrounded by projects and events focused on the upliftment of women entrepreneurs and women in the workforce.
In the modern age we are often inundated with discouraging statistics and depressing news. Sometimes this paints an inaccurate understanding of the world. Women’s Day reminds us to celebrate the substantial progress that has been made! After all, the world is a much better place for women to live in now than it was in 1956, particularly for women of colour. Taking note of the work we still have to do should not keep us from celebrating the many successes we have made in South Africa.
For example, nationwide women now make up 48% of the seats in government. This is a hugely significant increase from the 2.7% representation women had in in 1994! Specifically in Limpopo, 7 out of 10 mayors are women. A quick google search will give you evidence of the phenomenal South African women entrepreneurs doing incredible things in their respective industries.
But Women’s Day is not only about women. It acknowledges the contribution women made to the struggle for a better life for all South Africans, not just women. It reminds us of the power of a unified country and it celebrates the progress the country as a whole has made, culturally and politically, since 1956.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day could be considered the older sister of our own Women’s Day. South African Women’s Day is similar in function and philosophy to International Women’s Day, a holiday that has been celebrated on the 8th of March for over a century.. While the origins of International Women’s Day are disputed, the holiday likely owes its genesis to a national Women’s Day organised in 1909 in New York by the Socialist Party of America. The United Nations adopted the holiday in 1975, so the day is observed in many countries all over the world.
Internationally, there is a great deal to celebrate in terms of women’s rights. Women now have the right to vote in pretty much every country in the world. Just recently Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving. There are more women in the workforce than ever before. Internationally, the number of girls attending school and completing primary school education is increasing. There is still a significant amount of work to do, but International Women’s Day allows us to celebrate the increments made in making the world a more equal place!
Corporate Gifts for Women's Day.
So why do businesses buy corporate gifts for Women's Day and branded items to celebrate the day? It is an indisputable fact of the modern world that branding is an essential and powerful tool. It is the way that an organization communicates it value system and identity to its clients, and to the world at large.
A brand no longer simply refers to a unique logo or a name as it once may have. It is also the culmination of a business’s credibility, mission, culture and values. It goes without saying that a business’s brand is essential for setting a business apart from its competitors, generating trusting loyal customers and loyal employees.
With that in mind, it’s not at all surprising corporate gifts for Women’s Day and Women's Day promotional items are so popular. Corporate gift giving offers organizations the perfect opportunity to align their brands with an important set of ideals and participate in celebrating what the day represents: a united South Africa committed to a better country for all women and men.
Women’s Day gift giving and branding communicates not only a brand's dedication to its female clients and staff, but its South African pride. It delivers a message that is close to the hearts of many South African men and women, and really has the potential to emotionally connect with clients and staff alike.
Gift Ideas for Women
Gift ideas for women are endless, especially when it comes to corporate gifts for Women’s Day. Some options include:
“I am South African” Andy Cartwright A5 notebooks
Madison Giftset, which includes a powerbank, speaker, pen, and notebook
Portland Ladies Laptop Bag
Santa Monica Deluxe Multi-Purpose Tote
Milan double-wallpowder-coated water bottle
Montblanc Princesse Grace de Monaco Fountain Pen
Bella Donna Cosmetic Bag
Freestyle exercise mat
A Café Noir coffee set
A Deity bag holder and mirror
Gift Ideas for Women's Day
We recommend the Gift Ideas for Women's Day page that can be found our website. Our Pamper Gifts and Personal Care pages are also a great resource for ideas. Some highlights include:
These represent just a few of our gift ideas for Women's Day!
Why is there no National Men’s Day?
Holidays such as Women’s day and other days that celebrate particular groups can often stir up a little controversy. Why does Women’s Day in particular exist? Why did the government not chisel out a day on the calendar for the expressed purpose of celebrating men? These are all valid questions in a country that prides itself on a pursuit of equality.
For one thing, Women’s Day ensures that as a country we acknowledge the role women played in the history of our country. All too often the experience and contribution of women at major points in history is left out of the history books.
With a couple of exceptions, history is littered with tales penned by men, with male figures starring as the main characters. We know a great deal about the perspective of male soldiers in the trenches of WWII, and very little about the women who filled the factories to ensure the war could be sustained.
Women were an essential part of the end of Apartheid. It is important that we acknowledge those inspiring women leaders who contributed to the struggle, give credit where it is due, and prevent the erasure of these icons from history.
What is the significance of Women's Day?
What is the significance of Women's Day? Is Women's Day enough? Some of the controversy around Women’s Day lies in this simple but powerful question. The risk here is that National Women’s Day allows us to claim to celebrate women, acknowledge their importance and then return to status quo on August 10th.
Just as Christmas is announced with tinsel and carols in every mall, it is hard to miss Women’s Day in South Africa. Rather than a discussion of the values represented by Women’s Day, it’s more likely you will recognise the holiday by the prevalence of beauty products and cosmetics advertised under the banner of Women’s Day.
This fact comes with its own controversy. Does this do credit to an important day for our nation? Maybe we should be cautious of reducing an important holiday to a superficial day of specials at the grocery store. Although no-one is ever going to argue that discounted manicures are a negative thing! Rather, it’s important to also remember the deeper values that underpin the day and consciously embrace the ethos of women’s day.
There are 364 other days of the year where the values celebrated on Women’s Day are just as important! It is tempting to overestimate the significance of one day as a solution to the issues that Women’s Day highlight. So then what is the significance of Women's Day? National Women’s Day shines a spotlight on our progress as a country. It lets us take stock of how far we have come and reaffirm our commitment to our ideals of a free, fair and equal South Africa to carry forward for the rest of the year.
So rather than feeling like we have merely ticked the “Women’s Day” box and been responsible citizens, it is important carry the significant values of August 9th into our everyday lives, every day of the year!