Liz Bohannon has a dream: empower women. The founder and co-CEO of Sseko Designs aims to educate the millions of Ugandan women who are unable to pursue a higher education. In Uganda, according to the company website, only two percent of nearly 15 million women attend college. Sseko Designs seeks to change that.
Sseko Designs is a fashion brand that offers customizable leather sandals with interchangeable straps. The company also makes handbags and accessories, but their focus is deeper than apparel and material possessions.
“At the very baseline of what we’re doing is getting women into universities who otherwise would be back at home in their villages having kids,” Bohannon said. “(A lot of it comes down to) breaking those cultural norms that are so established in Uganda and trying to create a new understanding.”
So far, Sseko Designs has enabled 71 women to attend university, their website states. Bohannon hopes people will realize that, in the end, all women seek a life where they are granted opportunities for growth and the ability to contribute to society.
“We want more than anything for our customers to understand that they’re actually a lot more similar to the women we work with in Uganda than they are different,” Bohannon said. “It’s like hey this 19-year-old girl that lives a million miles away … wants the same things out of life that you do.”
Their motto is that “every Sseko has a story”. Bohannon wants people to know her story so they can be inspired to take action and pursue their own passions. Having started off with no capital, no formal training and no applicable education, she said she still found a way to achieve her goals and make a difference. Sseko Designs did not happen overnight, she said.
“The reality is I’m not a particularly special person I just have a lot of perseverance and gumption,” Bohannon said. “My hope is that people hear my story and walk away and say ‘if she can do that then what’s stopping me from making an impact with an issue I really care about?’”
Sseko Designs currently employs 50 women in Uganda. Their products are all sourced from East Africa, according to their website. Through their ethically-sourced products they hope to create jobs and create healthy communities and economies.
“We’re all humans. We all basically want the same thing,” Bohannon said. “At the end of the day, regardless of what culture or society you live in, you want to be accepted right? You want to be loved.”
OUAB presents “Bettering the World with Liz Bohannon” on Monday Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m in the Ohio Union Performance Hall. Two tickets are available per BuckID at the Info Desk.
Written by: Elizabeth Tzagournis