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Cool cause: Sseko sandals empower Ugandan women to attend college

Latesummerlifestyle Designer Liz Forkin isn't interested in promoting charity on behalf of impoverished Africans — she's looking to create industry in some of the continent's most destitute areas.

Already, the 24-year-old Missouri native has launched Sseko Designs, a shoe company based in Uganda that manufactures leather sandals with interchangeable fabric straps.

The stylish footwear is hand-made by a group of young local women who work to earn money to finance their university education.

"We believe in the power of business to help consumers change the world, one sandal at a time," Forkin said. "We believe it is time to start thinking about how to engage with Africa beyond charity. What if instead of giving second-hand clothes to a child in need, we gave their moms sustainable, fair-wage employment that allowed them to go to college, develop their careers and then provide for themselves and their own children? "

Forkin and her husband launched the company last year with an initial investment of $3,000 and "no big-name backers [or] rock star pull," she added. The duo now have two classes of women who are in college, "and we employ almost 20 women who are working their way towards more education and a brighter future. It's working. It isn't easy, but it's working."

And the sandals themselves are adorable. The simple leather base is always the same, but the straps — which can be tied in various configurations — come in an array of colors, patterns and materials. So, essentially, each sandal is a one-of-a-kind creation. Much like the company that launched it.

-- Emili Vesilind 

Photos: A pair of Sseko sandals. Credit: Sseko Designs





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Wonderful Cause and the sandals are awesome and affordable!! Everytime I wear mine I get compliments!

I've been really blessed to meet the girls behind the shoes here in Uganda. They are incredible young women who are truly experiencing life change because of Sseko, Liz, and the Uganda staff. This is all beside the fact that the sandals are absolutely fantastic, of course.

LA Times, thanks for stepping out and bringing light to organizations & businesses such as this. This is the kind of news that inspires and changes people. Keep it coming!

i love my sseko sandals!

Sseko is so inspiring. My wife has a pair of Sseko sandals and she loves them!

I wear my Ssekos almost every day - so versatile and beautiful to know both where they are coming from and where they are going to - - most consumers can't say that about their products.


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