Njuhi Chege, M.A. ’11

Published: March 26, 2013

Author: Renée LaReau

Njuhi Chege

Njuhi Chege is the founder and CEO of Riri Jewellery, a business that promotes peacebuilding through art by connecting Kenyan artisans with global markets.

She also is co-organizer and board member for the Festival for African Fashion and Arts, an annual international event that celebrates the diversity of the African continent through fashion, art, and music.

Njuhi first became interested in finding solutions to conflict after experiencing Kenya's post-election violence in 2007 and 2008. The violence eventually led to the death of more than 1,000 people and the displacement of tens of thousands of others.

"I considered myself lucky to have survived," Njuhi said. "I felt some responsibility to help prevent such a tragedy from occurring again"

Njuhi arrived at the Kroc Institute in the fall of 2009 and graduated in 2011 with a master's degree in international peace studies from Notre Dame. As a student, she interned in Jerusalem for the International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Peace.

Returning to Kenya, "I began to notice a tremendous surge of creativity at home," Njuhi says. "People were creating informative blogs, innovative apps, start-up companies, and world-class music, art and fashion events. I decided I wanted to be part of the innovation wave"

Njuhi, who had always loved jewelry and fashion, sought out young artisans and designers as well as suppliers of semi-precious stones, metals, and upcycled materials such as wood and glass. She founded Riri in 2012, and now sells handmade jewelry around the globe through her online shop and in three stores in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ireland.

"Creating demand for the work of young Kenyan artists ensures they keep advancing their art and offers them a sustainable means of making a living," says Njuhi, who recently shared her business model at a Harvard Law School conference on women, development, and entrepreneurship.

"We've connected artists with clients that range from business leaders to members of parliament. This leads to dialogue and fosters understanding between diverse groups of people"