“Every sandal has a story”, at least at Sseko Designs it does. Based out of Uganda, Sseko Designs is a purveyor of chic and classic leather sandals, but it’s the story behind the sandals that makes them so special. Founded in 2008, on a relatively spontaneous trip to Uganda, Sseko Designs “was created to help some of the brightest, most committed young women in Uganda continue their education” by “[hiring] recent secondary school graduates for [a] nine month period to live and work together, while earning money that will go directly towards their university education”. We talked to Sseko founder, Liz Bohannon, to get a better idea of what Sseko is all about.
How would you explain Sseko Designs to someone who is not too familiar with the company?
L:: Sseko Designs is an ethical fashion brand based in Uganda. In addition to handbags and accessories, we make beautiful leather sandals with interchangeable fabric straps that can be styled in hundreds of ways.
Sseko began as a way to generate income for high potential, talented young women to continue on to university. And it is working! Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree or has graduated from university and is on her way to making our world a more beautiful place.
In addition to our university-bound team, Sseko also employs women from all walks of life. By creating an environment of dignity, honor and dedication, Sseko Designs provides the opportunity for marginalized women in East Africa to end the cycle of poverty and create a more equitable society.
Tell us one of your favorite moments from being involved with the project?
L:: We usually talk a lot about our women who are headed to university because their stories of success and perseverance are so inspiring. Take Beatrice, for example. She has five brothers and the Lord’s Resistance Army captured every single one of them. Instead of allowing her fear to rule her, she used that as motivation to continue her education and make a life for herself. She is so adventurous and courageous. The courageousness must run in their family, because all of her brothers also eventually escaped from the rebel group…Just a few weeks ago I was sitting down with one of our full-time seamstresses who has worked with Sseko for about three years now. She is an older woman and she was sharing with me how much her marriage has changed since she started working with us. She told me how much more her husband respects her because she contributes financially to their family. She makes decisions and has authority in a way she did not before. He is learning to trust her and she is finding her voice. We say “Every sandal has a story.” And we mean it.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned working with Sseko Designs?
L:: Take risks! Great things don’t happen when you’re just trying not to make mistakes. And people win. Every time.