All Posts By

Rose Dreisbach

Life at Sseko, Uganda, Women of Sseko

A Note on Women’s Rights in Uganda

Uganda is a male dominated society, and although social and cultural norms have made great strides for women’s rights, the country is still transitioning into a society with equal rights for all. Sseko exists to empower women in Uganda, by providing them with jobs, and teaching them to be confident in themselves as capable women and members of society.

In Ugandan history, and still prevalent in some rural areas today, the belief was widespread that men are superior to women and are entitled to exercise their power over them. The woman’s job is to stay at home, cooking, cleaning, looking after the children and cultivating the land. While the women cook the meals, men over the age of 12 are not even allowed in the kitchen or cook house. Up until the 1980’s it was common custom for a woman to kneel when talking to a man. Girls in rural Ugandan villages still marry at a very young age, and are expected to leave their own family and transplant their lives to their husband’s village.

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Evelyn :: An Inspiring Ugandan Woman

There are those people that float into your life, even for just a few hours or days that change the energy in the air and alter the shape of your worldview forever. Evelyn, a friend of a friend, stepped off the post bus after an 8 hour journey from her village to Kampala, not only visibly refreshed from the country air, but determined to effectively spend her short weekend stay getting down to business. Through our first few exchanged sentences, I could already tell that Evelyn was a woman of strength and dignity, a wealth of knowledge, and an invaluable asset to her country.

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Life at Sseko, The Ugandan Cookbook, Uganda

Sseko Recipe Spotlight :: Samosas

Here’s another great Ugandan recipe to try!

Samosas are a common snack food you can buy at stalls on the side of the road. They’re inexpensive and delicious, so always a hit with the Sseko ladies. There are generally two types of Samosas, beef or vegetable, and the mixture of spicy vegetables and/or meat is wrapped in a thin sheet of pastry and then fried.

Give them a try and let us know what you think!
Samosas | Ugandan Cookbook

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Leymah Gbowee :: An Inspiring African Woman

Talk about inspiring women, we recently heard about Leymah Gbowee and after a little digging, were taken aback by the story we found on this lady.

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian woman, now in her forties and a mother of five, who formed a women’s peace movement during the Second Liberian Civil War. She later went on the be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with two other women, and was an essential part in helping Ellen Johnson become the first women president in Liberia and all of Africa. This is an incredible step in the future of the continent and of the world.

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Life at Sseko, Uganda, Women of Sseko

Wise Advice from the Sseko Women

It’s the little moments that catch us off guard. In the morning when all the Sseko clad feet come splashing in the door. At tea time when the women are quietly stirring spoonfuls of sugar into their tea. During the day, when the ladies break out into song and dance in the middle of sewing straps or gluing soles.
On a daily basis, the Sseko women are… Friends. Aunties. Coworkers.

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Life at Sseko, Uganda, Women of Sseko

Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Talent

Talent is a motivated and enthusiastic young girl. She brought life to the workshop during her time at Sseko with her sense of humor and innovative work style. She entered Sseko ready to learn and be exposed to new ideas. During her time at Sseko she says, “I learned to work wholeheartedly, and to be self-motivated during work with minimal supervision.” She thrived on learning about innovation and creative teamwork. She could be counted on to demonstrate flexibility and ingenuity in daily work and problem solving. She also learned about the value of teamwork and that more can be accomplished when you combine the efforts of those around you.


Attending: Kyambogo University


Studying: Micro Finance


Talent is currently attending Kyambogo University. She is studying to get her Bachelor’s degree in Micro Finance, and expects to graduate in December 2014. After graduation, Talent is planning to work for two years, after which she would like to set up a micro finance institution. “I am continually inspired by my aunt who is a successful business lady,” Talent tells us. With her talent (pun intended) and perseverance, we believe Talent can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Even reaching her biggest dream, to one day drive a very expensive car!

Life at Sseko, News, Uganda, Women of Sseko

Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Lea

A Lea Story:

Lea’s first hairdo after high school–which requires boys and girls alike to keep their heads closely shaved–represented a new life stage as much as her diploma. So as a new graduate, a university-bound young woman, Lea showed off new hair that twisted its way in cute curlicues around her head. Still, Lea’s not out to make any big statement. Personality-wise she exudes serenity and harmony, satisfied to work while humming to herself–hymns and year-round Christmas carols, mostly. For her a good work ethic is all about peaceful relationships, and she brings a placid, lake-like happy calm in and out every day. Sometimes, especially when she comes in neatly dressed in Mary Janes and a long skirt, we call her Little Leah on the Prairie–Lea’s so sweet you just can’t help but start coming up with terms of endearment.




Lea is currently pursuing a degree in Business Studies and Education at Kyambogo University. She plans to graduate in November of 2014. Lea wants to become a serious, responsible business woman, who influences positive change, especially in the younger generations. She dreams of establishing a foundation that influences youth and inspires them to live with integrity.

Sseko was Lea’s first job. In her time at Sseko, she learned how to work hard as a woman and learned all that she is capable of. It was a rewarding time of growth and empowerment for her. She was a valuable friend to many of the staff at Sseko, and she learned to fill a role of compassionate friend and supporter. Lea tells us, “I was inspired creatively and innovatively at Sseko.”

Life at Sseko, Women of Sseko

Sseko Designer Spotlight :: Emily Grace Goodrich

Emily Grace Goodrich is our Designer here at Sseko, and we’re excited to introduce her as she celebrates her one year anniversary at Sseko Uganda. Emily searches deep in the chaotic Kampala markets for unique materials which she sews, beads and etches them into unique and creative designs that are put into production by our team of talented women.





Emily, Tell us a little bit about yourself ::


Well, I’m from San Diego, but it’s taken me a while to say that because I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve lived in Maryland, Michigan, parts of California, Utah, Serbia and now Uganda. I like cooking, gardening, hiking, anything to do with fine arts and crafts. I like quiet activities.

How did you hear about Sseko and what inspired you to get involved?


I’ve worked in Uganda for six years, designing jewelry for a co-op that works with Ember Arts. It’s a group of 28 women here in Uganda who make paper bead jewelry, and the company has a similar heart and vision to Sseko in terms of supporting a group of women who may not have other opportunities to support themselves.
I think I was one of Sseko’s first customers, and I emailed them with a special request. The first time I met Liz, we were eating Ethiopian food with some friends, and she was chatting about how much she loves it when her customers write her and talk about how much they love Sseko’s or ask for a special request. She talked about one customer in particular who made a special request – and I was that customer! I’ve always been friends with the Sseko designers and when one of them asked me to follow up on a project of hers, I went in to the workshop to check on it, and I never left.

What is your favorite thing about working at Sseko?


I really love the women that we work with and getting to know their talents and personalities. Working at Sseko has forced me to interact with Uganda in ways that have been really stretching for me personally, such as finding things in the market, working with different suppliers and such.

Thinking about the women here that you have invested in, what would you tell them to encourage and inspire them?


A piece of advice would be to take advantage of any opportunity you have to learn something new because you never know when that’s going to be useful and helpful and you never know where it could take you.

What does your daily life look like in Uganda?


In the morning, I wake up before the sun rise and I like to spend time reading and writing. I take care of my garden and my chickens that are named Edna, Phyllis and Lucille. I have to take a series of matatus (public taxi buses) to get to the Sseko office. When I get to the main taxi park in town, I have to weave my way through the chaos to board a taxi for Kisase and then get on a boda down the hill to the office. I usually bring a small breakfast with me and eat it at the office with the women while they take their tea. I sketch out design ideas, make prototypes and samples and teach the design team how to make the new designs. Some days I go to the market in town and look for beads and buttons and other kinds of interesting things.



What are the joys and challenges of working in a developing country?


One of the joys is that because most people here don’t have so many of the technologies that I’m used to in the western world, they have really practical skill sets like carpentry and welding and beading, so I can find a lot of really interesting materials and artisans to work with. The women that we work with at Sseko are really talented – exceptionally talented, and they pick things up really quickly when they learn new things. I think the biggest challenge is the terminology barrier, not even a language barrier. They use different words for so many different things so people often think I have no idea what I’m talking about. As far as materials go, I’ll walk into a store I’ve shopped at many times for specific beads and people will act as is they have no idea what I’m talking about, which can be frustrating if you are trying to make 1000 pairs of something.

What advice would you give someone passionate about empowering women and motivated to take a risk to share their knowledge?


I would say either be willing to go all in or be wise enough to invest in someone who is. It’s exciting to think about traveling and meeting new people abroad, and there are lots of opportunities for great collaborations in the world. Before you get started, take a little time to get to know people you’ll be working with, and understand their needs from their perspective. Also think about what sort of commitment you’re willing to make in the long-term. Something I appreciate about the folks running Sseko is that they see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn, rather than excuses to back down. The more the women in Uganda get a sense of that commitment, the more confident they feel in their work.



Is there anything else you want to tell our Sseko customers or… the world?


Something I’ve learned over the years working in Uganda is how important your purchasing decisions can be. We have an opportunity to do something good or something harmful when we spend money and even as a designer when I am having things produced I have the opportunity to do something good or harmful in the world. And it’s worth the thought and work that it takes to choose to do something good.



Life at Sseko, News, Uganda, Women of Sseko

Sseko Graduate Spotlight :: Moreen

We’ve got our eye on Maureen—mostly because she is notorious for pulling hilarious pranks. And her impressions are rather impeccable. When asked to impersonate Liz Bohannon, she boldly took the challenge. (Who doesn’t love a girl willing to impersonate her boss to her face?) She stood up and started moving quickly around the room, giving hive fives and squeals of delight. “You’re always moving about. So quickly. Like you’re exercising everywhere you go!” She’s got jokes. But she also has a more serious side.




After watching her older sister get pregnant and drop out of school, she has become passionate about the issue of abstinence. For her, pursuing her education and career is just too important to be jeopardized by an unexpected pregnancy. In fact, during her time at secondary school, she started a student organization dedicated to mentoring younger female students on the steps they need to take to ensure they are able to continue pursuing their dreams.

Moreen is currently attending Kyambogo University and pursuing a degree in Management Science. Moreen dreams of starting her own business and becoming a successful manager.

We know that Maureen’s plan to pursue a Management degree will be well grounded by her attitude in the Sseko workplace. She tells us that her experience has taught her how to communicate with coworkers of different tribes despite the difference in category and age. She says that “even though we are young girls, we have learned to handle differences and appreciate people so that we can work in a good environment, hand-in-hand.” When reflecting on things she has learned about herself, she told us she has learned not to fear things she cannot do well immediately. Some stages of production were a struggle at first but with time, persistence and coaching she was able to reach her daily goals. With confidence, she smiles and she declares, “My time at Sseko taught me to be determined and set personal goals.”