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MRS MUTONI (middle} with two of her colleagues during the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States.

Mutoni- A woman with many hats

HER ambition when growing up was to become a teacher, but her parents opposed that idea. Now all grown up, Chola Lungu-Mutoni can still be referred to as a teacher in her own way, although she does not stand in front of pupils every day.
Born May 18, 1978 in Lusaka to Charles Lungu and Chilufya Kapwepwe, one only needs to look at Mrs Mutoni towering but slender figure to know she has a modelling background. However, that’s not all because Mrs Mutoni, is a woman of many hats.
The last born in a family of three, Mrs Mutoni who considers her maternal grandmother as her second mother, has successfully managed to make a name for herself not only on the local modelling scene, but has also managed to establish herself as a fashion designer to be reckoned with.
“My early years were spent in Chinsali with my grandmother who practically raised me because my mother had to travel abroad for further education. At three years, we moved to the Copperbelt,” she said.
Because of her mother’s work, Mrs Mutoni was educated both in Zambia and other countries among them Namibia and South Africa. However, it was in Namibia where her passion for modelling was ignited after her mother’s influence to transform her from her tom-boyish ways.
After her training as a model by Extravaganza in Namibia, Mrs Mutoni won three titles in the Miss University of Namibia Pageant; Miss Personality, Miss Photogenic and Miss University of Namibia 1999.
“I was too much of a tomboy so my mother enrolled me in school for eight months to transform me. That experience changed me completely,” she said.
Later, Mrs Mutoni moved to Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa where she obtained a degree in Politics and Sociology. Always one to create opportunities for herself, while at Rhodes University she run a Charm and Beauty course for Matric Girls sponsored by Checkers and Johnson & Johnson.
She also volunteered at the Centre for Social Development-Rhodes University Student Volunteer Program where she participated in voluntary service by dedicating her time, energy and skills to increase the capacity of non-profit and community-based organisations in Grahamstown.
She came back to Zambia in 2004 and while searching for a job, she decided to focus her attention on nurturing her numerous passions.
“Because I had been away from Zambia for a long time I felt I had lost touch with my culture and tradition. I started searching for answers trying to understand tradition and culture across tribes,” she said.
Mrs Mutoni explained that her passion revolves around three main areas including health, financial and traditional teachings for girls. This subsequently resulted in her organising workshops for personal development.
The project started with urban youths and through these workshops which have now been extended to other districts, Mrs Mutoni teaches girls about self-worth and self-esteem, financial discipline and the various options available to them.
“For most girls, especially in the rural areas, marriage is considered the ultimate and there is nothing wrong with that. But they need to invest in themselves; personal development, valuing themselves that is equally important.
My favourite group to work with are the grade eights. They are easy to discuss issues with. I talk to them about the need to start building their curriculum vitae early, teach them about financial discipline because they are eager to learn,” she said.
Apart from facilitating at personal development workshops, Mrs Mutoni, who also has a knack for fashion something she says she got from her aunt Mulenga Kapwepwe, she decided to register and open Musimbi in 2004.
Musimbi is a business focused on designing afro-centric shirts, bags and baskets, dressing them with sack, beads, shells and wooden pieces.
This she did part time as a hobby while she worked full time at Family Health International (FHI) as a logistics consultant.
In 2006, Mrs Mutoni resigned from FHI and joined Standard Chartered Bank as a personal and executive assistant. She worked with two Standard Chartered Bank CEOs; first Tom Aaker and later Mizinga Melu.
Unfortunately, although she learnt a lot from the two prominent CEOs, Mrs Mutoni, who three years after joining the bank got married felt her long and involving hours at work were interfering with her young family, decided to resign in 2012.
Mrs Mutoni continued nurturing her hobbies and in 2007, together with Zambia’s then Face of Africa finalist and Miss Zambia, they formed Models with a Message funded by Africare. Models with A Message designed fun and engaging ways of training youth in modelling techniques, self-esteem and HIV/AIDS.
In 2011, Mrs Mutoni founded Katuntulu, which specialises in hosting interactive empowerment workshops; a platform used to discuss health, wealth and Zambian tradition.
A year later, in 2012 together with Norena Chiteba, they purchased Bella Donna Finishing School. It is based on the concept of a traditional Swiss Finishing School.
In 2013, although it felt like a step backwards, she decided to re-join FHI360 as executive assistant to the country director.
That same year, she took part in Zambia Fashion Week, under her label Poleka translated  ‘explode’ or in local slang “look good” through which she envisions to create clothes that are not only luxurious and wearable, with a feminine and afro-centric beauty but also sophisticated and comfortable by experimenting with fabric combinations.
However, her transformation into being a full-fledged entrepreneur perhaps occurred last years when she participated in the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship which is President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
A mother of two boys Chanda, 6, and Chikondi, 4, She was trained at University of Texas in Austin, USA in Business Entrepreneurship and Leadership.
“I never saw myself as an entrepreneur until I went for the Mandela Washington Fellow. It was an eye opener because there I was trained on how to turn my hobbies into viable businesses. Now it’s a reality,” she said with a smile.
Mrs Mutoni who said she gets inspirations for her various talents from her mother and father apart from other close relations in her life emphased that her husband Chanda Mutoni has been a huge influence financially in all her ventures.
She has been exposed to multi-cultural work environments. She is a creative, enterprising and versatile individual who combines her imaginative and artistic abilities with an organized and multicultural approach.
Under Katuntulu, Chola run a Personal Development Workshop for Miss Zambia 2014 Jubilee finalists, it also included a session in Zambia Culture Awareness.
Chola has just completed facilitating workshops and conducting research among high school girls in Solwezi in Western Province, Choma in Southern Province and Chinsali in Muchinga Province. This is a pilot project run by the Ministry by Gender and is funded by UNDP.
The aim of the project is to create Safe Spaces where teenage girls in secondary schools can openly and freely discuss Teenage pregnancies, gender-based violence and early marriages with the guidance of professionals and specialised trusted adults.
The mentored girls will act as role models and pass on information to their fellow students using fun, interactive and innovative activities.
And when all is said and done, for Mrs Mutoni family always comes first nothing else matters.