Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman
WATCH HER STORY HERE:
Bai Rohaniza’s life is a story of two faiths and cultures – she has Maranao roots through her father belonging to a family with royal lineage in Marawi City, a family of peace mediators and peace movers while her Catholic mother who converted to Islam hails from Bulacan whose family are composed of renowned musicians, poets and artists. She grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where she was a witness to the terror of war. Honey would tell her audience, “I have experienced war myself. I am working hard for peace because I do not want other children to suffer from conflict”. She may have grown up in Riyadh but her experience of Gulf War when she was 7 years old, her family’s roots, the experiences and stories of her uncles and ancestors who are also fighters and have been at the forefront of conflict to defend the Bangsamoro People against injustices, inspired her to take on a journey of helping build peace. When she started this journey, she got immersed in the conflict areas of Mindanao, went to communities where children were most vulnerable, got to know about the stories of families especially children who got affected by centuries of conflict and shared these stories and her experiences with people in Manila for them to understand what her fellow young Muslims have been going through. The stories of the people from the communities she went to motivated her to start initiatives to create more awareness about Mindanao and what every Filipino can do for their fellow Filipinos in the said region. She shares herself with anyone — Christian, Muslim, Maranao, Maguindanaoan, Lumad, Tausug or any religious or ethnic group. She finds a bit of herself in every child who fears the sound of war.
Right after graduation in Assumption College, she worked for the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Youth Affairs and was assigned in youth development programs. Then worked as the Philippine Country Director for Asia America Initiative. In this role, she promoted peace and development through education, inter-faith, inter-cultural and inter-generational engagement in peace building for the younger generation to be peace prime movers in their own communities, creative and innovative approaches in creating more awareness about the peace building process like Sports, Music and Art.
Rohaniza’s long-term dream is to establish a Peace Home that will specialize in peace education for younger generations of Muslims and Non-Muslims, and also founded an organization called “Teach Peace, Build Peace Movement” with its mission to make every Filipino child & youth a peace builder, as an effort to develop a sustainable culture of peace for generations to come. She is an alumni member of the Ayala Young Leaders Alliance, Outreach Convener of Young Moro Professionals Network, which she also chairs, a group of young Muslim professionals advocating peaceful means to improve the socio- economic well-being of the Bangsamoro people and also a Trustee of Center for Strategic Reforms Philippines that empowers MSMEs for sustainability and greater impact toward inclusive growth. She was Associate Editor of Starfish Magazine from 2008-2010, the first Filipino youth empowerment magazine where she was one of those who pushed for a section that was geared towards publishing good news and exploratory articles about issues in Mindanao to present a positive paradigm. She’s now a regular contributor in Manila Speak.Com writing about Mindanao and Peace as her advocacy and the youngest member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Multi-Sector Governance Council with its Transformation Roadmap.
Rohaniza’s peace advocacy has also expanded to other creative venues. She is also a hijab (veil/head cover) stylist and her interest in style influenced her to showcase modest clothes and style her hijabs (head cover), which she launched last September 2010 called, “Rohaniza’s Hijab and Muslimah Style” along with her “Muslim Republic” statement shirts. She created this not for the purpose of fashion but more of to bridge the gap between religions and cultures. She tagged her line as: Bridging Religions and Cultures through Fashion and Style. She conducts yearly Fashion Shows mainstreaming the positive side of Islam in response to negative notions against the said religion.
A consistent Valedictorian and Leadership Awardee when she was still in school. A multi-talented individual in the field of Sports like Karate as taught by her Father who is a Kyoshi in Martial Arts, a Varsity Player from Elementary to College both in Basketball and Volleyball, Literature, Music, Dance and Arts and Public Speaking. A multi-awarded individual – last year, she was the first Filipino to receive an award from a Qatar-based group that seeks to improve interfaith understanding and religious tolerance — the DOHA International Center for Interfaith Dialogue Best Individual Award because of her peace building and interfaith work for children and youth. She was the recipient of 2013 “Emerging Peace Champion” Award from the N-Peace Network organized by United Nations Development Program. The Award highlights women who empower communities and are exemplary peace builders. She was also recognized as an Ambassador for Peace in 2007 by the Universal Peace Federation. She has also been recognized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines for successfully conducting a series of peace building programs that created venues to help deepen the knowledge, understanding and relations not only between the civil society and the AFP but also among Muslims, Christians and Indigenous People. She has been featured in several magazines like Meg Magazine, Chalk Magazine and Total Girl Magazine, newspapers like Philippine Star and Inquirer, and on-line media such as When in Manila and Rappler as a young achiever, great role model for youth and women and exemplary peace builder. Her story was also featured in the International on-line news, Huffington Post about her mission in building a Culture of Peace in the Philippines.
In doing all of these things, Honey is vocal about her “motto”. She calls it her “BRAVO scheme”: Breaking the barriers between different religions and cultures, be the Voice of the voiceless especially children and youth affected by conflict and help create Opportunities to give the people the kind of life that they deserve. Despite a dark story in her life of having to go through war at 7 years old, she has developed an unconditional passion in building a Culture of Peace especially amongst young people where writers and bloggers have called her a “Game Changer”, “Warrior Princess for Peace” and the “Peace Princess” of the Philippines.