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Category: Individual - Youth SOV Awardee FY: 2019

Some early childhood experiences shape adult life, and Aliah B. Adam did it as an inspiration to serve.

As the third child in a sibling of five (5), she was introduced at an early age to challenges. She lost her mother when she was just four (4) years old and all five (5) of them were entrusted to their grandmother who due to her advanced age later entrusted them again to their uncles and aunts. Life was not easy for them, they grew up separately and at a very young age, Aliah learned to value responsibility, yet, she realized how lucky they were to have people who helped and welcomed them in their homes and supported them emotionally and financially.

Growing up in Lanao del Sur, she was exposed to so many problems with two (2) of them greatly affecting her - security issues or armed conflict and forced or child marriage. Prior to the now infamous "Marawi Siege", Aliah has been working as a peace advocate lecturer in Marawi, working with different organizations towards bringing the rope of peace through prayer rally, intercultural dialogues, friendly competitions and leadership camps. Right after Marawi was declared liberated, she rendered her services as a volunteer with the Institute of Peace and Development for Mindanao, an organization advocating for peace and non-violent solutions through participatory lectures and orientation towards the rebuilding and rebirth of Marawi. During her lectures, Aliah emphasizes to young women and children that violent extremism is the root cause of all conflict and problem in Mindanao and could create a generation of children of disrupted education.

Her other advocacy and the one closest to her heart is gender equality against forced or child marriage. She herself was arranged to be married when she was in college but she fervently resisted it as she wanted to pursue a career and exercise her ability to choose what is best for her. Though she managed to escape that fate, it was a bittersweet one as her younger sister was chosen to replace her. For her, this practice has shattered the childhood and future of countless children not just in her hometown but in families and communities with this age-old tradition. To date, at least four (4) of the participants in her lectures has lobbied to their parents against child marriage.

Through all this volunteer endeavors spanning twelve (12) years, she does not receive any remuneration for her services except the occasional free meals and transportation extended by generous organizations. To arm her with the necessary knowledge which she could impart to the participants, she tirelessly attends seminar-workshops all over the region on mostly at her own expense.

Going a step further, Aliah created "Singanen O Mindanao", a socio-civic organization composed of mostly women youths who were inspired by Aliah's example and who also wish to bring about that change to their fellow youths. Due to the groups' positive vibe, a lot of youth volunteers are offering their services to join Singanen's activities, which includes peace and development lectures, encouraging fellow youths to pursue education and other concerns affecting the youths of today. However, due to lack of resources specifically for food and transportation, they just limit their number to a maximum of twenty (20) volunteers per activity. To advocate volunteerism, Aliah worked her way in securing a radio program from a local radio station every Friday for free. The group believes that service should not be defined by how young and how many they are, but by how they work and strive to be messengers of peace and development in their communities.

Life is made up of endless choices, some are big but some are minute and of little to no impact at all...but for Aliah, she chose to confront the options and challenges before her with courage and hope of bringing about lasting peace, women empowerment and inclusive growth through volunteerism.

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