Sseko Sandals-Tie them up!

-written by Jess Bowen, Inventory Wrangler

We are settling into our new location of Ten Thousand Villages in Austin and I’ve loved listening to customer comments about all of our new and old favorite fair trade products. I especially love how customers are drawn to check out our display of Sseko sandals and ribbons.

Customer 1, pulling her friend over:

“Did you SEE these? You can MAKE YOUR OWN sandals!”

Customer 2, peering at the display card showing about ten different styling options: “Wait..and you can tie them in a bazillion ways??! That’s *SO* crazy!”

I might have made up the ‘bazillion’ part… but the rest is literally what I’ve been hearing, over and over. Enthusiasm for a cute and innovative pair of sandals, without even knowing the best part about what this group is doing!

Sseko (“say-ko”) Designs was created in response to the struggles of bright young women in Uganda trying to continue their education. These ladies would graduate from high school (a feat in and of itself) but then have difficulty finding jobs to save money during the gap year before starting university. In a country where around 40% of girls (UNICEF, 2011) are married by the age of eighteen, it’s difficult for many to stay in school. In addition to fighting the gender odds, funding becomes an impossible obstacle for many impoverished families.

Read about the ladies of Sseko here!

ladies of sseko

What Sseko does is provide these women with jobs, paying them fair wages for the work they’re doing. Half of each paycheck is put aside for them in a savings account that isn’t accessible until school tuition needs to be paid. When the time comes, the company grants scholarships matching up to 100% of the savings each woman has accumulated. To date they’ve enabled 47 young women to continue on to university, in addition to providing work opportunities for women who have aged out of the education system or have no other form of income generation.

Besides doing a world of good for young women in Uganda, Ssekos are just as comfy and cute as advertised. Which is what’s so fabulous about being an ethical consumer in this day and age. No need to buy because you feel guilty or bad or ‘like you should’. You buy garments, home goods, and accessories from fairly made sources because they’re on trend, comfortable, and a great addition to your home or wardrobe! In addition to being in-line with your values.

So how do these sandals actually work?

how to tie

  1. Pick the base in your shoe size
    We have dark brown but can special order your size in cream or black if you’d prefer).
  2. Pick your ribbons
    We have a variety of price points made from various materials in solids or patterns.
  3. Now Style!

Check out Sseko’s “how-to-tie” videos hereA great way to get started before coming up with your own designs!

sseko possibilities

No but really, are they comfortable?

I get asked this by friends a lot. And..yes! Unlike many sandals I’ve bought on the street in Africa and India with very thin soles, these are pretty substantial. I can wear them for an eight hour shift without my feet hurting (pinky swear!)  I also like that they’re adjustable as I have narrow feet.

Isn’t it a pain having to tie them every time?

The basic tie they provide on every ribbon card is super simple and doesn’t require re-threading the little elastic loops every time. It’s just wrapping back around your heel, ankle, then a bow. You can also tie them flip-flop style so they’re easy slip-ons!

About those ribbons…

There are straps in a variety of materials to match individual styles and needs. From wedding to weekend outing. And if we don’t have what you want?? Time to get crafty! After buying basic black straps with my bases I’ve been experimenting with other cloth fragments lying around the house. My next project is to try them with some t-shirt ‘yarn’…

Jess's feet

We’re thrilled to be carrying yet another brand that is working toward empowering women and communities around the world. Letting you express your individual style while (…literally…) supporting education, every step of the way.


Join us at Ten Thousand Villages-Austin on June 29th, 2015 for a Sseko Tie Party. Learn more about the summer-ready Sseko sandals that can be tied in 100’s of different ways and find out about the organization’s workshop in Uganda that empowers young women to go to college. Our special guest will be sharing stories while we swap style ideas, learn new ties, and enjoy snacks and beverages in the store.