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Sandals Change Lives: Sseko Designs Helps Ugandan Women Go To College

July 12th, 2014

Lisa Dawson

It’s summer time, which means it’s sandal time! I was looking for some cute-yet-functional-and-comfortable sandals for the sunny weather when Linda from Clementine Shoes introduced me to Sseko ribbon sandals.

Sseko Designs (pronounced say-ko) was founded by Liz Forkin Bohannon after she took a post-college trip to Uganda. During her time there she met and made friends with a number of wonderful, smart young women, and learned how difficult it was for them to attend college. Liz wanted to start a company that provided a safe environment for women to learn a skill and earn money for their education, and the idea for the ribbon sandal was born.

Here’s a short overview of the program:

Participants spend nine months in the company factory in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, after which they will have earned enough money to pay for their first year of college (Sseko matches 100% of their earnings with a college scholarship).  47 women have attended college  in the five years since the company’s founding, and there are 50 current employees. That’s pretty amazing.

We believe that every woman has a dream. When she is given the opportunity to pursue those dreams, we are collectively walking towards a brighter and more just and beautiful world. – Sseko Designs

Sseko is based in Portland, Oregon, but their products are all made in Africa with the intention of creating jobs, empowering artisans and helping end the cycle of poverty through building healthy communities and economies. In addition to the work in Uganda, Sseko designs and sources ethically made products from East Africa.

The Ribbon Sandal

The ribbon sandal is comprised of a base with several sturdy elastic loops and any number of broad, double-thickness ribbons. As you can imagine, the sky’s the limit with the different number of ribbon threading and tying combinations. Sseko has some on their website, and they encourage you to come up with your own. They also have some lovely accessories you can incorporate into your sandal design.

Linda gave me a pair to try out and I spent a little time browsing through combinations in the How To Tie section of the Sseko website. I tried a couple before landing on the Bohannon’s Best. The video was short and timed perfectly for the sandal tying rookie. Here’s my end result!

Bohannon's Best

The feel of the sandal base reminds me of my old Chaco flip flops: very stable with a nice little bounce. My regular size was perfect in length, and width accommodated my wider foot. The nice thing about the design of these sandals is that you can get the right size by simply standing on the base.

Tip: The cotton ribbon will stretch with the first couple of wears, so tie snugly and expect to re-tie them after walking around a bit.

A sandal base and one ribbon sells for $55, or a starter kit (base + three ribbons) is $80. Additional ribbons and accessories range from $10-20.

Useful links: