Fighting Injustice with Solar Power 

In Uganda’s rural Kole District, abuses of power often slip under the radar, and scarce electricity is partially to blame. Without access to the internet, citizens have few ways to understand their rights. And only those with ample resources can seek legal counsel. 

A new partnership between SELF and Barefoot Law—a legal justice organization—aims to address this through the first solar-powered “LawBox.”  

The LawBox is a community building where people can access free legal services and information. This can include explanations of their rights, mediation with in-person or remote lawyers, and assistance with court appearances. The LawBox aims to ensure rural and low-income people can seek justice. 

Barefoot Law originally launched the LawBox in 2022. However, inconsistent electricity limited its ability to serve local people. Kole is connected to Uganda’s electric grid. But like in many rural and low-income places, the grid experiences frequent and long-lasting power outages. As a result, people would visit the LawBox seeking help, but be unable to receive it—with no way to access documents, connect with lawyers, or simply see the room around them after dark.  

Barefoot Law reached out to SELF for a solution. SELF got to work designing a reliable, solar electric system that works independently of the nation’s electric grid. 

The 17 kW system will power diverse needs within the LawBox including lighting, device charging, computers, video conferencing with lawyers, and more. Power will also be extended to subcounty and town council offices, as well as the police station to help law enforcement intake and investigate cases. Ensuring the entire justice ecosystem is electrified will help these entities work together and better serve all people. 

Three solar streetlights will also be installed, illuminating the community market. Police data reveals a significant uptick in crime after the sun goes down. The lights will create a safe space in the village center and extend the hours available for commerce and social activities. 

In addition to serving the people of Kole, this pilot project will also provide a model to expand justice services in other communities. 

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SELF is a global leader in the fight against energy poverty. Since 1990, we’ve pioneered unique applications for solar energy, powering progress on food security, health care, education, gender equity, and more. 

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