Transcending differences, divisions and fears: Passing on the dream for lasting peace

March 22, 2023

Charmaine Mae “Xx” Dagapioso shares her experiences during the Bangsamoro NextGen Young Women Leaders’ Training


On a crisp, summer night in the mountains of Sarangani in southern Philippines, Charmaine Mae “Xx” Dagapioso was camping with fellow students when she met a 13-year-old-boy carrying an M16 rifle. 

Charmaine was studying to be a pastor, and it had become customary for seminarians to conduct immersion in conflict-ridden communities and provide assistance where they could. At that time, they were living in communities besieged by conflict over controversial mining projects in the province.

“It disturbed me,” recalled Charmaine of the encounter with the 13-year-old combatant. She felt anguish over the fact that conflict and violence were already stealing the boy’s youth - and his future. “It made me reflect on my choices, on what I was doing,” she said, cementing her decision to leave the seminary and turn to peacebuilding. 

Born in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, Charmaine remembered too well how the conflict disrupted the lives of her family when she was young. “Hearing gunshots and seeing flares at night were considered normal occurrences in our lives,” she grimly shared - “and so were the news of deaths that followed after.”

Charmaine’s parents were educators who worked in a Christian mission school in Marawi, and were often targets of armed groups. Despite that, her family never thought of the conflict as drawn along religious lines. 

“It was never a war between Muslims and Christians,” she underscored, recognizing early on that the roots of the conflict ran deeper and required a more comprehensive approach for resolution. 

Charmaine’s passion for peacebuilding led to an extensive career in community organizing, education, and advocacy-building, and now, she serves as board member for Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI). BMFI’s vision is to transform Mindanao into a progressive, sustainable balay, or “home” for its peoples - the Moros, the indigenous peoples, and the Christian settlers whose interwoven history birthed the region’s rich and dynamic culture. 

From the barangay to national and international levels, BMFI implements a host of interventions designed to sustain peacebuilding and increase participation of stakeholders in the peace process. And with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC)- led Women Insider Mediators Rapid Action and Mobilization Platform (WIM-RAMP), women peacebuilders like Charmaine have become front and center in driving the peace agenda forward. 

For Charmaine, women are the nexus of any community - they care for and look after their families, their neighbors, and the youth. They also wield considerable influence to effect change. 

In a training geared for young women leaders in the Bangsamoro, Charmaine, now almost 50, looked back on a long, active life dedicated to peacebuilding. She passed on the challenge to the young women who participated in the Bangsamoro NextGen Young Women Leaders Training.

 “We have to create more spaces for women to participate,” she said, adding that women stand to gain the most in leadership and trust-building positions. 


In 2022, in partnership with the Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC) and the Bangsamoro Youth Commission (BYC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) convened 40 young women leaders from various BARMM provinces – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-tawi – for a training on transformational leadership towards building capacities in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding. The Bangsamoro NextGen Young Women Leaders’ Training provided an avenue to facilitate the bridging of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) and the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) programs of the BARMM government for a more integrated initiative that will allow for meaningful participation of young women and girls in peacebuilding and governance.