Meet Mathias Zimba, Executive Director of Rising Fountains

Mathias Zimba stands with two mothers in front of a home in rural Zambia

Mathias Zimba works with Zambia mothers (Photo submitted by Mathias Zimba)

As executive director of the Zambian non-profit organization Rising Fountains Development Program, Mathias Zimba partners with the Global Social Development Innovation group, led by Gina Chowa, professor and associate dean for global engagement in the UNC School of Social Work. In this Q&A, Zimba discusses building wealth and health for women in Zambia.

Why is Rising Fountains’ work important for the future of Zambia?

We believe in the future of Zambia. We believe it can be bright, but it depends on the health and empowerment of women. If a mother and her family are healthy, empowered and financially included, we believe the country of Zambia will be on a good path.

On what areas does Rising Fountains focus?

A woman and her child must first be healthy before anything. For this reason, we focus on reducing maternal mortality. From there, we then focus on financial inclusion and entrepreneurship. Some of the entrepreneurship activities are focused on environmentally beneficial businesses like beekeeping. Beekeeping activities have allowed for the rezoning of critical areas to protect them from deforestation. We also focus on mitigating the effects of climate change and promoting access to justice and human rights for women.

How did your partnership with the UNC School of Social Work begin?

It is actually a funny story. Dr. Chowa contacted Zambia’s Ministry of Health looking for a partner in her work. When I first met her she said, “It is so wonderful to meet you, Mathias.” I had to let her know that I actually remembered her from when she lived in Zambia. She was older than I was, but our families actually knew each other when she still lived in Zambia. It did feel like fate, in a way.

How did the UNC School of Social Work approach the partnership with Rising Fountains?

Even though Dr. Chowa is Zambian, she worked in her job at UNC for 10 years before she decided to engage in this work in her home country. This let me know she would be intentional in our partnership, and I believed she would also understand us. Both of those things have been true.

Why does an organization like Rising Fountains partner with a university like UNC-Chapel Hill?

There are actually many reasons. First, it is valuable for us to have any partners in this work. My regular meetings with Dr. Chowa have provided critical mentorship and support. Further, the University of North Carolina has provided us with the technical expertise to improve the implementation of our programming. Finally, UNC has connected us to vital donors and resources.

What areas will Rising Fountains focus on in the immediate future?

We are so proud of our accomplishments with the Rural Women Empowerment Fund. To see it shared in a wonderful documentary film has been quite motivating for us. Now that many women we work with are participating in the financial inclusion activities, we are very excited to aid in building their capacities as entrepreneurs. We aim to equip 300 entrepreneurs in 2024.

How can people learn more and support Rising Fountains?

We greatly appreciate all forms of interest and support. We hope that people will consider making a donation to the Global Social Development Innovation group at the UNC School of Social Work to support Rising Fountains’ initiatives.

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