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My left hand: is it not part of my body?

By Mabel Delassie Awuku 


“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer”. W. Somerset MaughamI do recall the visit by my mother, one Saturday morning, which triggered a lot of excitement among my children,especially the youngest of them who wanted to express her excitement by sharing a candy with Grandma. I observed with sadness how grandma hit her because she used her left hand to offer her a gift. 

 

A reaction that kept the child very confused and saddened by her sweet grandma. As if that was not enough, she rained insults on the poor child for using her left hand, an act regarded by Ghanaian culture as disrespect. My attempt to calm the situation down explaining that she was a left-handed person, popularly termed as “left T”, worsened the situation as grandma blamed me for not instilling the right morals and values in the child.

 

After her visit, my child forgetfully waved her a goodbye using the same left hand which had created so much tension during her visit compelling the child to ask: “Mum, is my left hand not part of my body” This is a question I ask all people who kept giving children, a bad name regarding the use of the left hand.  


There have been countless occasions where left-handed children are compelled by their teachers to use their right instead of the left that they are comfortable with (left) thus distorting the naturally gifted hand use.


Culture


In Ghanaian Culture, giving and receiving items is done only with the right hand. If one must use the left hand, an apology must be rendered. The left hand is mostly
Considered unclean, since it is only used to clean up after visiting nature’s call, and its use disrespectful.


Using one’s right hand to shake, touch, eat food with, or handle money (or anything else) is therefore, a must while using the left hand for these things is considered rude and dirty.The Ghanaian society, therefore, frowns on the active use of the left hand. Whatever had informed this impression about the left hand could have changed over time as a result of the changing times.

 

I can say without any equivocation that during the olden days, our forebears had no good toilet facilities and what was used to clean up was quiet rough, hard and easily breakable thus one could soil his or her fingers with faeces in the attempt of cleaning up after attending to natures call; but the situation is different now with a lot of modern and better ways of cleaning up. In this regard, the mindset of people must also change with the changing times to allow for dynamism in culture since culture, it is said, is and not static.


Medical perspective


According to research conducted by a spectrum of science experts. They aren't exactly sure why some people are left-handed, but they know that genes are responsible for about 25% of the cases. Left-handedness does tend to run in families according to medical experts, "but noticeably less than other inherited traits, like height or intelligence."


In fact, even identical twins, who share the same genes, can also sometimes have different dominant hands. There are several theories on what else might determine which hand one writes with, but many experts believe that it is kind of random.


Several factors have been attributed to this left handed phenomenon. Some experts attribute it to genetic factors, developmental factors wand cultural influence, among other very important reasons, according to researchers that have delved into that area of study. Experts explain that left-handed parents tend to have more left-handed children than right-handed parents do.

 

Also much debated influence by health researchers across the world talks about the level of the hormone, testosterone, in the utero (womb) while an unborn child (fetus) is developing. Another possibility is that left- handedness is influenced by random “chance” processes that occur during the early development of an unborn child, when it is still very small.


Regarding the heritable factors, researchers have found several genes which may be involved in left-handedness. Interestingly, it seems that there is no one gene which contributes to determining left-handedness. It is, therefore, most likely that different genetic influences are involved to give a person his or her dominant hand.People with dominant left hands are said to have special qualities which make them distinct from the reverse.

 

They might think differently but are mostly known to be very smart and intelligent, critical thinkers and, mostly, with wonderful leadership abilities according … to some researchers despite the difficulty in getting to use the scissors, for example, and could, therefore, not perform as dressmakers, although they are known to be good boxers and great at sports.


World Boxing champion,  Azuma Nelson, the Nations once best boxer the world has witnessed who always made Ghana Proud, Barrack Obama, the first Black African president in the history of the United States of America are leftees.


Would it be wrong for society to see Mr Nelson and Mr Obama as evil, not well brought up or as lacking some values that our society cherishes and holds dear?


Conclusion


The phenomenon is natural and cannot be said to be abnormal. Interference with the use of the left hand should be discouraged and the environment created for them to exhibit their talents and potentials through the use of the left hand to help in National development. I am of the firm belief that with regards culture, we are the drivers and must be in the position to tell which culture to keep, update or drop to help take care of the needs of the changing times.


The writer is a staff of the Information Services Department.(ISD)


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