Some time last Year I came across Katherine Lucey on Twitter and was fascinated by her project in Uganda. I was pleasantly surprised to meet some of the women she works with at VILLAGES IN ACTION conference in Masindi and more so how good they are at what they do. They sold me two lamps there and then without much effort. One of the lamps I bought has mobile phone charging facilities- I gave that to my mother, the other I bought for myself to use when I am in Uganda and I can’t tell how handy that came in during my last visit. We had a whole week of daily power outages!
I thought the Solar project would benefit our women in Ruhanga and I introduced her to Ann our project coordinator. The out come of that was a visit by Evelyn Namara one of the Solar sisters in the area and I caught up with her via email to learn about the project as well as the outcome of her trip, here are the answers she sent back to the questions I sent her
1. What is solar sister?
Solar Sister is a social enterprise that empowers women through economic opportunity. Using a market based solution to eradicate energy poverty in rural communities throughout Africa, Solar Sister gives women the tools they need to life themselves out of poverty.
Solar Sister is one of the social enterprises that uses a ‘trade not aid’ approach, where we help the women by giving them an opportunity to start their own micro businesses by selling Solar lamps and in turn the women get an income of their own and become independent. More on us, please visit our website; http://www.solarsister.org/
2. Why and how did you come to be involved?
All of my career life I have had a passion to empower women, am a computer scientist by training and naturally in class or throughout University, we were always few ladies in class, I don’t know if to refer it to techno phobia, on the part of girls with technology, but this gave me a passion to want to always get women involved.
I have worked with training women in different fields of technology, offering them skills that can help them be better system administrators, etc, so because of that background and having done that for a long time, I wanted to reach out to community and help out more women in a real life setting.
When I read about Solar Sister and what they were doing, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of their success. I totally love what I do with the women entirely out of passion. I love interacting with the women and listening to their stories and offering them an opportunity to have better lives through Solar Sister. So that is how I got involved.
3. How has it benefited you?
For now the benefits come with putting a smile on someone else’s face. I work with an incredible team; I believe it all starts with being surrounded with the best team. Katherine Lucey the Founder and CEO Solar Sister is one lady I have found so passionate and loves what she does with the program. I have met more other Solar Sisters like Eva Walusimbi whose success has been documented everywhere on the Internet, Susan Okedi from Kumi and their drive and passion moves me, so that is a start.
More of the benefits are that I get to learn more from the experience, which increases my knowledge in business and doing things. Am sure I will continue to be a better person with Solar Sister.
4. How did you end up in Ruhanga- how did the trip come about?
The Ruhanga trip came about as a means of contacts and networking. Katherine introduced me to a very lovely lady called Ann McCarthy who stays in UK and does some work with the Ruhanga Community Development Centre at the Uganda Lodge. Katherine had spoken to her about Solar Sister and explained the entire concept to her, and she was willing to introduce us, [Solar Sister] to a team of women that she works with in Ruhanga.
I got in touch with Ann through Skype and we planned the entire trip where she invited me to go meet her women and introduce them to Solar Sister.
That is how I ended up in Ruhanga to meet up with the ladies there. I loved every experience there because it was enriching and real.
I communicate with the ladies I met there at least 3 times a week, they even call me themselves to keep updating me of their progress in trying to sell our lamps, which is awesome.
5. Tell us about your trip to Ruhanga
Ruhanga is located in the South Western part of Uganda. It is about 40kms from Mbarara Town.
The people of Ruhanga are best known for farming, and cattle keeping. It is a beautiful place surrounded with hills and the weather there is phenomenal.
A trip to Western Uganda is one I always look forward to. I haven’t been in the western part of Uganda for quite some time and thus it was exciting to be able to make a trip there to bring HOPE to the women of Ruhanga just a few miles away from the main town to Ntungamo.
The people of Ruhanga are faced with a challenge of POWER like most villages in Uganda. People cannot afford the luxury of lighting up their houses because they know it is expensive and only meant for the affluent.
When we gathered a group of Women from all parts of the Village, I was thrilled that many of them were ready to travel long distances to learn about Solar Sister and an opportunity for them to kick start their own micro-businesses.
Women came from Itojo, Kinoni, and Ruhanga and gathered to listen and learn.
Gathering all their stories and what they do for a living is something we always do in our trainings, just to figure out how they earn a living.
Most of the women are housewives, farmers, cattle keepers, we also had a teacher, and a tailor in the group.
This group of 18 women seemed to see HOPE in the message I carried for them, which was the power of Solar. Many of the women did not realize how important Solar energy would change their lives, not only in terms of clean energy but also the ability to help their children improve on their grades given the fact that they could now study at night without ‘wasting kerosene’.
As the training went on, many women realized they had an opportunity to live an Independent life and enjoy an income of their own that they would perhaps never have experienced.
Solar Sister brought HOPE to this village and the Women were enthusiastic to spread the word across the village. Today as I speak, we have got Solar Sister Enterprenuers that signed up in Ruhanga bringing in orders for more lamps from more village members.
It is this kind of positive HOPE that Solar Sister seeks to bring in people’s lives. More women are being empowered down in Ruhanga and I am very keen to follow up the success of this group of hopeful women.
An inspiring trip it was. enamara