Increased access by women to justice, property rights and top jobs has seen Kenya emerge as the leading reformer globally in a report released by the World Bank on Tuesday.
The report says women in Kenya were greatly empowered by the new Constitution as well as other legal reforms that have been taking place in recent years.
“Kenya has achieved a lot in gender parity because of the new Constitution which is now being studied by many countries in the world that want to carry out reforms,” said David Bridgman, regional manager for Investment Climate Advisory services in Africa at the World Bank.
The report titled Women, Business and the Law 2012: Removing Barriers to Inclusion, showed that economies that have greater differentiation between men and women have, on average, lower female participation in the formal labour force.
Women labour participation was found to be 78 per cent, which was higher than in some developed countries such as South Korea where it is 55 per cent. The report noted that women could not get a job without husband’s consent in countries like Kuwait and Oman.
Out of the 35 countries covered in sub-Saharan Africa, only 10 – Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, Burkina Faso – have no legal differentiation regarding the use of property and basic legal transactions such as signing of a contract or getting a passport.
“You will realise that the reforms are also reflected in Kenya’s improvement seen in the Mo Ibrahim index,” said Mr Bridgman.
Kenya climbed four places to position 23 in the Mo Ibrahim index of governance that assessed 53 countries on the basis of providing economic opportunities for citizens, safety, human rights and development.
Kenya’s highest points in the ranking were in rural development and gender parity.
The World Bank report said 36 out of 141 economies globally removed legal differences between men and women.
The report identifies 41 legal and regulatory reforms enacted between June 2009 and March 2012 that could enhance women’s economic opportunities.
Legal reforms enacted in Kenya recently have given women rights to confer nationality to their children and spouses, to registration documents and freedom of movement.
However, Joanne Mwangi, CEO of Professional Marketing Services and chair of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association said access to information remains a more serious obstacle to women’s progress than even access to finance.
“Women’s biggest challenge is lack of confidence ...Many still do not have the information to enable them advance,” said Ms Mwangi.
Mr William Cheptumo, assistant minister for Justice, Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, said the best reformer ranking globally shows constitutional reforms are achieving their objectives.