Image via WikipediaPolicy networks, as seen in modern democracies, play great roles in democratic processes especially when it comes to fighting for what is right for society and for the nation as a whole. Some policy networks may be restricted to a given area like a constituency while others may cover a larger area. There are international policy networks such as in banking, airlines, and even terrorist organizations that have leverage over large areas of the world. According to Peterson (2003, p. 1). “Public policies, by definition, are the responsibility of public authorities and aim to satisfy some vision of the public good”. On the other hand, according to Mendizabal (2006), quoting Perkin and Court (2005:3), “networks are broadly defined as ‘formal or informal structures that link actors (individuals or organizations) who share a common interest on a specific issue or who share a general set of values”.
In this essay, the policy network I have chosen to highlight is the African Women’s Economic Policy Network (AWEPON), a faith-based, non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Uganda and founded in 1994 during the United Nation’s NGO regional preparatory conference held in Dakar, Senegal. AWEPON was founded on the basis of influencing women in economic policy and achieving economic justice for women. The purpose of AWEPON is to ensure women receive representation at the national, regional and global levels. With headquarters in Uganda, AWEPON has representations in many African countries.
AWEPON has brought together people with knowledge in international policy networks drawn mainly from nations that have advanced in democratic governance such that AWEPON was recognized by the Betty Plewes Fund (AWEPON, 2007), a Canadian international donor agency that gives priority to global women development. In the international arena, AWEPON has been recognized by the European Union and other international actors committed to governance.
Democratic Influence and Governance
By working with international organizations, AWEPON has been able to influence and exploit various sectors of society including youth activities, people afflicted with HIV/AIDS, and water privatization in various districts of Uganda. Working in concert with the Gender Entrepreneurships Markets (GEM) and the Department of International Finance Corporation (IFC)-a World Bank Group-AWEPON has been able to impact women groups regarding the legal and administrative barriers faced by women entrepreneurs in Uganda.
Democratic Governance and Policy Networks
The creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a global initiative to halve extreme poverty, halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the provision of universal primary education by 2015 galvanized AWEPON’s commitment to improving the living standards of women in Uganda. On the other hand, AWEPON has been partnering with neighboring countries in training women entrepreneurs in business skills, transforming socio-economic conditions of women, providing innovative technology like solar cookers, economic literacy and market competitiveness and many other fields that are meant to elevate women in countries like Kenya and Tanzania. The activities of AWEPON is not only limited to the borders of Uganda. In the past AWEPON conducted poverty and socio-economic assessments in HIV/AIDS among households in as far as Cameroon in West Africa, Swaziland in southern Africa, and in neighboring Tanzania.
AWEPON (2007). Betty Plewes Fund Award. Retrieved from http://www.awepon.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=37&Itemid=12
Mendizabal, E. (2006). Understanding Networks: The Functions of Research Policy Network, Working Paper 271, Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7JD, UK.
Perkin, E. and J. Court (2005) Networks and Policy Processes in International Development: A Literature Review, Working Paper 252, London, ODI
Peterson, J. (2003). Policy Networks. Department of Political Science, Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS), Political Science Series 8.