On Saturday, June 20th, Creative Women of the World held its Sseko Soiree event, highlighting Sseko Designs ribbon sandals. I personally love Sseko and what it stands for. I first learned about this company in depth this past semester at my university. Sseko’s founder, Liz Forkin Bohannon, was at Taylor University for its Social Justice Week, and she spoke in one of my classes. She told us all about her company and its mission.
Sseko Designs is a company that employs women in Uganda. Their focus is to provide jobs for women who have tested into university but who do not have the necessary funds to attend. The women work during their gap year, and the jobs provide them with enough money to continue their education. Part of their income is automatically set aside in a fund, and at the end of their gap year Sseko matches their savings to ensure that they have enough money to pay for their education. Without Sseko, most of these women would not be able to continue their education because they wouldn’t have enough money to do so, which is heartbreaking because many of them are the brightest students in their communities. However, there simply are not enough jobs available to pay for university, especially when they are competing with men for those jobs. This is why Sseko was started: to empower women by providing them with a sustainable way to further their education and provide for themselves.
One of the things I appreciate about Sseko is that it is a for-profit business with a social mission. This might seem like a red flag to some when it comes to social issues, but there are things that for-profits can do that other organizations cannot. Obviously non-profits and NGOs play an important role in development and poverty alleviation, but Sseko has decided to take a different approach by focusing on needs that social companies are better able to meet. As a for-profit business, they have been forced to become an efficient and sustainable company with a focus on the underlying problem of job scarcity. Sseko is not a charity; rather, it is filling a market need while providing much needed jobs in Uganda for women. In fact, Sseko is now the second largest employer of women in Uganda! How cool is that?
Because of all of these things, we are so happy to be carrying Sseko at CWOW, and we were so excited for this event. As the women arrived, we had them choose a pair of ribbons for their base sandals. Then we began the event by explaining some of Sseko’s history while eating some delicious snacks that Nicole made.
Next is when the fun began. We taught them around five different ways to tie their sandals. There are so many different and fun ways to tie these sandals that it can seem overwhelming at first. Some of the styles look really difficult and intimidating, so we wanted to make sure that these ladies left our event knowing how easy it really is to change up their Ssekos. For our inspiration, we used some of the videos on Sseko's website that show how to tie them. However, it was really neat to watch the ladies at our event make up their own ways of tying their sandals (some of which may or may not have been accidental). They were so creative!
We also showed them how to make their own ribbons and fun ways to accessorize their sandals. We used beads and buttons and old earrings and anything we could think of to spice up our sandals. We talked and laughed and shared and had a great time. Overall, it ended up being a fun and successful event!
We finished up by making cards for the ladies in Uganda who make the sandals. We wanted them to know that we appreciate what they’re doing and that we adore their product. We wanted to acknowledge them and their excellent work, even if it was simply through a card from one woman to another.
Sseko Designs is a fantastic company, and we are so excited to have the opportunity to carry this ethical fashion line here at CWOW. They are doing great things in development and for the empowerment of women, and we are proud to be a small part of spreading the news about them and their mission. And of course, the cute shoes don’t hurt either.
[This is a guest post written by our summer intern, Laura Liechty. Laura is majoring in Developmental Economics/Systems at Taylor University.]