Shine On

Katherine Lucey (MBA ’84) is empowering women one solar lamp at a time

More than 1.5 billion people lack access to electricity. For the most part, they rely on kerosene lanterns and candles for light, and spend up to 40 percent of their family income on energy that is inefficient and hazardous. When Katherine Lucey took notice of this, she got to work.


Katherine Lucey

Lucey is the founder of Solar Sister, a nonprofit company dedicated to changing the lives of women and girls living in energy poverty.

Solar Sister trains, recruits and supports female entrepreneurs in East Africa to sell affordable solar lighting and other green products such as solar lamps and mobile phone chargers.

The women use their community networks of family and neighbors to build their own businesses, earning a commission on each sale.

Lucey says engaging women to distribute clean energy is effective change and a solid investment.


“Investing in women is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” she said. “Women are primarily responsible for energy usage at the household level. Clean-energy technology will not be adapted on a widespread basis if women are not part of the solution.”

Solar Sister has changed the lives of women and families in remarkable ways. One woman, Rebecca, a rural farmer in Uganda, put a solar light in her chicken room. By increasing the hours of light, the chickens ate more and were healthier.
They laid more eggs, which improved the economics of her operation and provided extra income to buy seeds, and eventually, a goat, pigs and a cow.

Rebecca built a school where she teaches children to read and write, and also how to farm.

“The strength of our enterprise solution comes from the women themselves,”
Lucey said. “It is their own ingenuity and commitment that builds their business. We are just offering them the opportunity to help themselves.”