Sseko Designs is an ethical fashion brand that generates income for high-potential young women in Uganda. By creating an environment of dignity, honor and dedication, Sseko provides the opportunity for women in East Africa and the U.S. to end the cycle of poverty and create a more equitable society.
Through fashion, Sseko Designs creates opportunity for women globally. They provide employment and scholarship opportunities to women in Uganda who are working to overcome poverty. By making sandals for 9 months during their gap year between high school and university, these women are able to save up enough money to attend college and pursue their dreams. Attending a university is a powerful step towards overcoming the lack of economic opportunity many Ugandan women face. To date, every woman (87 total) who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree or has graduated from university and is on her way to making the world a more beautiful place.
Additionally, Sseko provides employment to a team of 40 Ugandan women from all walks of life. These women are provided a job and access to a comprehensive social impact program in an environment of dignity, honor and dedication. Sseko also partners with existing artisan groups in Kenya and Ethiopia to produce exquisite textiles and fine leather goods. These additional products help Sseko contribute to the growth of East African economies through trade and employment, while the revenue generated expands their mission to empower women through employment, training and scholarships.
This financially self-sustaining model also enables Sseko to create opportunity for women in the U.S. through the Sseko Fellows program. Each U.S. Fellow sells Sseko’s handcrafted products to start and scale her own social enterprise while earning an income and becoming a leader in her community. Furthermore, every Fellow is paired with a Sole Sister in Uganda. All of the Fellow’s sales contribute directly towards a university scholarship fund for that woman, creating a life changing experience for each. As Stephanie Fitzgerald of New Jersey reflected, “I am a Fellow, not only for the beautiful, handcrafted products, but for the knowledge that there is a woman working in Uganda with the same spirit as myself, who now finally has the chance to follow her dreams.” Last year, the Fellows program enabled the company to triple the scholarship amount provided to each of their university-bound employees.
Sseko falls somewhere between a traditional non-profit charity and a typical for-profit business. They usually refer to themselves as “not-just-for-profit” to make their consumers think about their values. When it comes to charity, people demand accountability and transparency. But where is that same accountability when it comes to purchasing something? Sseko believes that if our society applied the same standards to both sectors, the world would be a more beautiful and peaceful place. When it comes to for-profits, making profit and being financially self-sustaining isn’t a bad thing, as long as the company never puts profits before people. Sseko joined SEA as a member to join the larger conversation around social entrepreneurship, create community around their movement and show people that consumerism can be an incredible force for positive social change.