Former US President Barack Obama is one of the most prominent left-handed personalities in the world. AFP PHOTOFormer US President Barack Obama is one of the most prominent left-handed personalities in the world. AFP PHOTO
By ELVIS ONDIEKI, @OndiekiMogere

Today is the International Lefthanders’ Day. Imagine that sentence being written by a lefthander using a fountain pen. It would be a mess, no?

That is why a trader in Nairobi has opened a business that sells a range of products, fountain pens included, that are designed in a way that lefthanders won’t mess things up when using them.

From scissors to can openers to corkscrews to peelers and notebooks, there is a whole range of specially-made products that Mrs Linda Makatiani has been importing and selling to Kenyans since early this year.

As the world spares a thought for lefthanders today, who some scientists approximate comprise between 10 and 13.5 per cent of the human population, Mrs Makatiani will be checking her messages to see if there are people placing new orders for lefthander items through her website.

The website is also an information centre and a platform for bringing together lefties under Leftie Kenya. So far, she said, 50 people have registered, with about 500 others being involved on their social media platforms. The group had been mulling about a lefthander event in Nairobi today but August being an election month put a damper to the schedule.

“We are trying to get a hashtag out on Sunday for people to appreciate and share the struggles, because one thing I also noticed is that even the adult lefthanders, none are very outspoken about the struggles that they’re having,” Mrs Makatiani told the Sunday Nation.

Mrs Makatiani, who is right-handed, started getting involved in those matters because her six-year-old daughter is a leftie.

“I realised that when she started going to school, the teachers didn’t understand how to assist her,” she said.

ANYTHING LEFT-HANDED

Her efforts to buy products that would suit her daughter saw her connect with a UK-based couple last year. The couple runs a business-cum-club called Anything Left-Handed.

“I joined their club, got to learn a lot about left-handedness and they also introduced me to a distributor for left-handed products and that’s how I managed to bring the left-handed products locally,” she said.

Raising a left-handed child, Mrs Makatiani has been asked to force her daughter to use her right hand. She says it the last thing she will do.

“It is the brain which determines which hand should be the stronger one to perform most of the tasks. So, by virtue of someone trying to change a person’s handedness, you are basically telling them to use their weaker side to do most of the tasks. Then you end up finding that the person will be either slower in writing or slower to complete tasks or not doing them up to par,” she said.

Mrs Makatiani quit her decade-long job as in the banking and commercial industries to concentrate on making lefties feel at home. She registered Lefty Kenya early this year and has an office in Nairobi’s Lavington. The organisation currently has eight board members.

“We go out on networking sessions and talk to people, both right-handed and left-handed, then go round schools and talk to them and try to set up meetings,” she said.

In a society where the welfare of left-handed people is often overlooked, where even lecture hall seats in universities are constructed with the assumption that all students are right-handed, Mrs Makatiani hopes her efforts will bring change in Kenya.

“There are products that a left-handed person might not be very safe to use if they are designed in a right-hand way, especially machinery,” she said. “I realised that if you’re a right-handed parent, you feel very powerless. You don’t know how to help your child and you know they’re looking up to you to help them.”

PROMINENT LEFTIES

But despite the challenges, the world is never short of prominent people who are lefties. They include Barack Obama, Uhuru Kenyatta, Bill Gates, Lionel Messi, Mark Twain and Aristotle.

Former Citizen TV anchor Kirigo Ng’aruah is also a leftie and Mrs Makatiani said she is involving her.

“We’ve spoken to her; we’re trying to bring something out,” she said, adding that popular personality Grace Msalame is also being engaged because she has a leftie child.

And despite their sufferings, a study released in June said that lefties may have a brain advantage when it comes to solving difficult problems such as calculations.

The findings were made after a series of experiments were conducted on 2,314 Italian learners in primary and secondary schools. The experiments were done by researchers from various universities in Europe.

In their report published in the Frontiers in Psychology website on June 9, the researchers found that lefties did better than others in the sample in tasks that needed difficult problem solving. Adolescent boys showed this tendency most clearly. The scholars, however, said more study is needed in the field.

“Further research is needed to draw a more precise causal model of the effect of handedness on cognition and mathematical ability. We thus propose some recommendations for extending the design of the present study,” said the team of five.

The Sunday Nation spoke with Amos Ontita, a left-handed mathematics teacher at Pope Benedict XVI Secondary School in Kisii County, who had shown exceptional ability in his schooling days.

“There is a big correlation with intelligence. Lefties are good problem solvers if all other factors are kept constant,” said Mr Ontita.